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What Is a Hidden Microphone?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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A hidden microphone is a device designed to pick up voices and other sounds while remaining out of sight. For example, a hidden microphone may be embedded in a pen, item of clothing, piece of furniture, or electronic device that isn’t normally used for picking up sound. Some hidden microphones are even designed for use in flower arrangements. Often, though not always, hidden microphones are used in combination with hidden cameras, allowing the user to hear and see events in the area without alerting others.

Talk of hidden microphones often brings images to mind of people spying on each other, but these microphones aren’t always used in that manner. They may be legitimately used on TV shows that have a host who needs to remain mobile, for example. In such a case, a hidden microphone allows a TV host to move about as much as necessary and speak to his audience no matter where he goes on the set.

Sometimes a person may use a hidden microphone to record the details of his own conversation. A journalist may use a microphone pen, for example, to record the details of an interview and retain information provided off the record. Another party may use a hidden microphone to record another person’s admission of guilt or threats.

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There are also many ways in which hidden microphones may be used as spy equipment. For example, an individual may suspect his spouse of adultery and install a hidden microphone to record what she says while talking on the phone. He may even set one up to record what happens in their bedroom while he’s away from home. A parent may place such a microphone in his teen's bedroom in order to learn what he says in private conversation. An employer may even install a hidden microphone to eavesdrop on what his employees are saying throughout the day.

It’s important to note that many jurisdictions make certain uses of hidden microphones illegal. In many places, it is illegal to record phone conversations without asking permission, even if the person is recording his own spouse. Placing a hidden microphone in another person’s home, office, or private space may be considered illegal as well. On the other hand, law enforcement officials in many jurisdictions are permitted to use hidden microphones to solve cases and record confessions, but they typically have to secure a court’s permission to do so.

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Catapult
Post 15

I love when they use things like a hidden spy camera or microphone and other secret recording equipment on television. Leverage is a television show that uses these a lot; the main characters are a group of people who con criminals and con artists. I often watch it and wonder if the things they do are really possible, but even if they aren't, it's amazing to see the technology they come up with.

widget2010
Post 14

@orangey03- If I had been in that position, I wouldn't have been embarrassed- more insulted and offended. That was a horrible use of a hidden microphone to take advantage of you, and if that friend's sister was in on it I find that even more upsetting. It sounds to me like you're one of the only people in that person's life who are really concerned about her, and are honest about her issues.

FernValley
Post 13

@strawCake- Sometimes television psychics also have hidden headphones as well, so they can hear things from their backstage team during the show, too. It can be a really complicated system. While I would love to believe that there are really psychic people out there, if there are, those people are probably not on television.

orangey03
Post 12

Has anyone here ever been embarrassed by a hidden microphone? I sure have, and I learned that the best policy is just to never say anything bad about anyone.

I have a paranoid friend who always thinks people are talking about her behind her back. They are, but it's only because of her extreme paranoia.

She decided to put a hidden microphone in my kitchen to see what I was saying about her. Then, she sent her sister over to my house under the guise of hanging out.

While her sister was there, she asked me what I thought about Cassie's weird behavior. I was honest and said she needed to realize that the world didn't revolve around her. I said that she needed therapy, and that her love interest would probably never date her the way she was.

She confronted me by playing back the conversation. I felt trapped and ashamed, and we had to have a difficult talk about her behavior and our friendship.

StarJo
Post 11

If my parents had put a hidden microphone and camera in my room when I was a teenager, I would have been furious! How is that legal, even if it's your own kids? That is such a violation of privacy.

I understand putting blocks on computers to keep kids from visiting certain inappropriate sites, and I agree that certain television programs or channels should be blocked, as well. However, when you do this and then you also add a hidden microphone into the mix, you send the message to your child that they aren't trustworthy and you are a sort of dictator.

wavy58
Post 10

I did not know you could get a pen with a hidden microphone! That is awesome. I am having trouble keeping up with my professor, and I would love to get one so that I could take notes at my own pace.

Also, in my journalism class, we have to interview people before writing articles. I have been using a regular tape recorder to document these interviews, but it would be so much easier and cooler to use a hidden microphone pen.

seag47
Post 9

@Sara007 – I had the same concerns as you when I hired a new nanny. I found out that nanny cams are legal, as long as you put them in public areas like the living room or kitchen.

You cannot put one in your bathroom, because this would violate her privacy. If your nanny lives in your house, you also cannot legally install one in her bedroom for the same reason.

I put a nanny cam in my living room, and I found out that she is great at her job. I just wanted to be sure before any psychological damage was done to my child, you know?

gravois
Post 8

I am normally all about privacy. In fact, the idea of being watched or recorded when I don't know it is really frightening to me. But there is a small strange part of me that thinks a lot about getting a hidden microphone.

I will probably never do it and even if I did I would probably never use it. But I can't help but think about it and I don't think I'm alone on this one. Who wouldn't want to know what people are saying when they are not around? And imagine the crazy things you could overhear when people think they are alone.

I know that this is a terrible violation of privacy and as I say, I would never do it. But there is a devilish part to all of our minds and mine seems to like this idea in particular.

Ivan83
Post 7

Has anyone seen "The Conversation" Francis Ford Coppola's genius tale of paranoia from the mid 70s? It stars Gene Hackman and is one of my all time favorite movies.

The film follows a surveillance expert who is hired to record the conversation of a mysterious couple. He grows increasingly paranoid about what he hears and kind of goes crazy. The famous final scene of the movie has Hackman tearing apart everything in his apartment convinced that there is a hidden microphone somewhere. He kicks holes in the wall, pulls up floorboards, smashes lamps and unscrews outlets. It is really striking. Anyone who hasn't seen this incredible film should really check it out.

Sara007
Post 6

Does anyone know if it is legal to use a hidden video camera and hidden wireless microphone in your own home to record a nanny?

We are considering hiring help and have been talking about the idea of getting the "nanny cam" surveillance system set up in our home. We've heard too many horror stories of neglect to trust a stranger 100% right from the get-go.

I also like the idea of being able to check in on my kids throughout the day. I think it would make me feel a lot better if I could see what was happening with them no matter where I was.

letshearit
Post 5

When I was studying journalism we actually were told to purchase tape recorders so that we could record our interviews. One of the interesting things that we learned though is that we didn't actually have to tell the person they were being recorded. If you are a journalist, and the person knows that and is willing to talk to you, it is pretty much a given that you'll be recorded.

The only real exception to this is when you hear of things being done "off the record", and often what is learned in this kind of interview needs to be verified by some outside source, whether it be documents or what not.

strawCake
Post 4

I read somewhere that television psychics use hidden microphones. They record the audience before the show starts and listen to what they're saying. That's how they're able to say things about an audience member that they couldn't possibly know!

I feel like this is a gross violation of privacy. Plus, they fool people into thinking they're actually psychic! These people really on their advice, unfortunately.

At the very least, the studio audience should at least be informed they're being recorded. Then they can decide if they're alright with it or not.

sunnySkys
Post 3

@indemnifyme - I actually knew that recording people without their knowledge was illegal in a lot of place before I read this article. I remember it from the Monica Lewinsky scandal during the Clinton administration!

Remember how her supposed friend Linda Tripp recorded their phone conversations? The recordings were later used as evidence in the trial. However, making those recordings was illegal in Maryland, where Tripp lived and made the recordings. I believe she was actually indicted on charges, but they were later dropped.

I personally think she should have been convicted. What kind of person does that to their friend, anyway?

indemnifyme
Post 1

As the article said, it's illegal to record people without their consent in many locations. For example, in my state we're not allowed to record phone conversations without the other parties consent.

When I was doing my insurance training, we listened to recordings made in other states where it wasn't illegal. It was helpful, but it would have been better if we could have listened to recordings made in our state. Insurance products are slightly different in all states!

However, I do understand why this is a law. I think privacy is probably more important than my learning to sell insurance.

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