Calif. ‘Secret’ Phone Call Recording Bill Advances

by Kurt Orzeck, Law 360

Business spying on customer phone calls


A California state legislative committee on Tuesday advanced a bill authored by an assembly member representing Silicon Valley that would allow companies to start recording cellphone conversations without first telling their customers, despite civil liberties advocates who claim it would lead to “secret” tapings.

The Assembly Committee on Public Safety approved AB 925 by a vote of 5 to 2, a spokesman for the committee confirmed to Law360 on Tuesday. The members of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety — including newly elected Rep. Evan Low, who introduced the measure in late February — also approved an amendment requiring that customers be told 20 seconds into a cellphone conversation that the call might be recorded, the Consumer Federation of California said on Tuesday.

California state law requires so-called “two party consent,” which provides that all parties to a phone conversation be told about or agree to the recording of a conversation. Under AB 925, the law wouldn’t apply to the recording of nonconfidential communications between a person or business and a current or former customer of the person or business, or a person reasonably believed to be a current or past customer, that pertain to their business relationship.

Ben Golombek, a spokesman for Low, told Law360 that the Assembly Member was pleased that the bill had come out of committee and that he had worked with the committee chair and the committee staff to strengthen it. Representatives for other Assembly Members who voted in favor of AB 925 didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The Consumer Federation of California on Tuesday said its executive director, Richard Holober, told the committee that AB 925’s provision for “secret recordings” would allow companies to manipulate business calls through serial phone calls, effectively defeating the purpose of the notification.

The consumer group, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, California Nurses Association, California Federation of Teachers and other organizations, wrote in an Apr. 27 letter to the Assembly committee that the bill “would sacrifice well-established privacy interests.”

“Virtually all California businesses, and most out-of-state businesses have no difficulty complying with the two party consent laws that exist in California and several other states,” the letter said. “AB 925 would eliminate an important and non-burdensome privacy protection.”

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