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When do wiretaps become privacy violations?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

To government agencies, wiretaps are an invaluable tool for preventing crime and protecting the public. However, there is a thin line between legal surveillance and invading someone’s privacy that they can never cross.

Law enforcement officials must be extra cautious to avoid infringing on anyone’s rights during their investigations.

Needing proper authorization

The first step towards ensuring that wiretaps do not commit a violation is obtaining proper clearance. This means a court must approve the wiretap by formally presenting solid evidence that suggests criminal activity. Without judicial approval, any wiretapping is illegal.

Exceeding the scope of the wiretap

Even with court approval, wiretaps can still be against the law if they exceed the scope or duration of the court order. For example, if a wiretap authorized only to monitor calls concerning a specific crime captures unrelated personal conversations, that would be an instance of privacy infringement.

Lacking oversight

Transparency is a key practice in preventing wiretaps from becoming privacy breaches. There becomes a higher risk of abuse without someone constantly checking that everything is happening by the book. Regular reviews and audits help ensure that listening operations do not extend beyond what is legal and that citizens are not subject to invasions of privacy.

Although wiretaps play a helpful role in law enforcement and national security, their implementation must abide by strict legal standards to avoid trampling on the public’s rights. Ignoring these rules can make surveillance subjects feel embarrassed and unsafe. Successful legal action provides a measure of compensation and helps prevent future instances from occurring.