What It’s Like To Tap Your Own Phone

When the government taps our phones, citizens get (rightfully) outraged. But as Terence Eden found when he began tapping his own cell phone, having recordings of every conversation you have can be incredibly useful.

What It’s Like To Tap Your Own Phone
Woman on Phone via Shutterstock

A few months ago, Terence Eden started recording his phone calls. All of them. “As a matter of course, I record everything,” he says. “I’m sure I’ll come to regret that one day. But I’m not discussing anything illegal, nor do I talk about anything confidential.”


What he’s doing would be illegal in California and the eleven other states that require all parties to consent to a recording, but Eden lives in the U.K. There, the primary barrier is technical, and was essentially surmounted when he installed the InCall Recorder Android app in April, which he uses on his Galaxy Note II.

Though it may bring to mind the NSA or Richard Nixon, it is not hard to imagine a world where such a service comes standard. And the benefits Eden cites are far from creepy. For one, it’s practical. Eden is currently buying a house and shares calls related to finances with his wife. “I also share important work calls with my team,” he says. “Or edited highlights at any rate.”

Editing is key, as most of Eden’s phone calls–anyone’s phone calls, really–are mundane. He has recorded about 30 hours since installing InCall Recorder, and estimates that he has recorded 100 hours in total.

One imagines most of those hours will never be replayed, but even when the recordings are private, the fact of the recording creates a kind of audience. “It makes me think as I’m speaking about whether I’d be happy to have this call played back in public,” says Eden. “That makes me more polite, and more circumspect.”

The moments where Eden finds sentimental value are by their nature less calculated. “Listening to my wife telling me that she’d landed her dream job is something I’ll never get tired of,” Eden says.

And many may only gain value later. “I’m lucky in that none of my close friends and family have died since I started recording,” says Eden, “but I’m painfully aware that one day all I’ll have left is a recording of our last conversation.”

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a print, radio and video journalist, regularly reporting for WNYC and NPR. He grew up in New Mexico.