Illegal phone tapping
Unauthorized interception of telephone messages
Eavesdropping of telephone conversations
Misuse of telephone surveillance
The interception of telephone conservations or telegraph messages may be legal or illegal and may be used to collect information and evidence on suspected criminals or as an espionage technique for political or business purposes. Legal wiretapping in some countries requires a court order and is used by local constabulary or state security police. If police corruption or political corruption is involved the information may be misused. The effect of wiretapping may be to reinforce government control or strengthen police power and there is risk of abuse. New forms of wiretapping apply to telecommunication data or code pulses, and hence also to computer-tapping. Illicit wiretapping is closely related to tape-recording of conversations without permission, which may be a civil, rather than a criminal offence against the rights of privacy. Wiretapping may also be an adjunct to electronic bugging.
In 1985, it was reported that all but one of the member 21 countries of the Council of Europe made use of telephone surveillance. It is claimed that, in 1978, the government of Romania was capable of monitoring 40% of of the population's telephone communications and was tapping 90% of government telephone communications and 80% of army communications. It is reported to be a matter of routine in many countries for embassy telephone lines to be tapped by agencies of the host government.