The short answer to your question is yes, a person could hide a tape
recorder and tape a conversation with you without your consent in New
York City/New York State. There are exceptions, however, including the
fact that such recordings cannot be made for the purpose, under
Federal law, of any "criminal or tortious act."
Here is the longer version of the answer, with links to appropriate
laws and statutes:
The use of electronic recording equipment to record conversations
(both by telephone and in-person) is governed by both federal and
Federal law allows recording of phone calls and other electronic
communications with the consent of at least one party to the call
(except when the state in question has stricter laws). New York state
is one of 38 states which permits taping of conversations with
one-party consent, following the federal statutes. Basically, that
means that a person can record their own telephone conversations
without the knowledge or consent of the other individual in New York
(New York City included). It is illegal in all states (including NY)
to record any conversations to which you are not a party - you can't
record a conversation between your spouse and another person, for
example, if you aren't a part of that conversation. Most of these
statutes apply to electronic recording of any conversations, including
phone calls and in-person interviews.
Here is the section from the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy
Act which applies to your question:
And here is the section from New York law which applies:
"N.Y. Penal Law § 250.00, 250.05 (Consol. 1999): It is a crime to
overhear or record a telephonic or telegraphic communication if one is
not the sender or receiver, or does not have the consent of either the
sender or receiver. It also is a crime for someone not present to
overhear or record any conversation or discussion without the consent
of at least one party to that conversation."
From "Can We Tape? A Practical Guide To Taping Phone Calls And
In-Person Conversations in the 50 States and D.C." (the page on New
On the "Consent and its Limits" page, "Can We Tape?" goes on to say:
"It is always legal to tape or film a face-to-face interview when your
recorder or camera is in plain view. The consent of all parties is
presumed in these instances."
From the Legal Handbook for New York State Journalists:
"While it is illegal for third parties to record conversations they
cannot easily overhear, federal law and statutes in about 40 states,
including New York, permit secret recording with the consent of at
least one participant in the conversation."
"A criminal or tortious purpose may be found where a participant in a
conversation records with the intent to blackmail or threaten
"While secret recording for criminal or tortious purposes is illegal,
a secret recording is not punishable simply because it might embarrass
a participant in the conversation."
I hope this helps to answer your question. If something about my
answer is unclear, please feel free to ask for clarification.