Government agencies, local authorities or police often perform wiretapping – the monitoring telephonic or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) discussion or conversation by a third party without their knowledge. Judges issue warrants authorizing this practice in order to collect evidence related to various crimes including homicide, conspiracies, money laundering, burglary, or terrorist activities. Transcripts of wiretap recordings are accepted as evidence in court, and are helpful in expediting the trial process. A Forbes report revealed that several secretly recorded phone conversations played a critical role in upholding the conviction of Rajat Gupta in the controversial insider trading case. However, there are several challenges involved in producing accurate transcripts from wiretap:
- Background Noises and Distorted Conversations – As the wiretapping is done secretly, there is no guarantee that the environment would be noise free. If there are distracting noises in the background, the conversation may be distorted. As a result, it may take an hour to transcribe a recording that lasts just two or three minutes. Only a skilled transcriptionist using superior headphones (for example, noise canceling headphones) and quality transcription software would be able to handle the task and decipher the distorted voices.
- Need to Listen Repeatedly – With a complex audio, the transcriptionist will need to keep replaying and listen to the audio over and over again to pick up all the details of the conversation. A lot of patience is needed to complete the task successfully.
- Strict Adherence to Quality – In transcribing these telephonic conversations, proper use of commas, quotes, periods, colons and other punctuation marks and strict adherence to the rules of grammar is necessary to document the conversation correctly. These recordings may have high significance during the trial and the outcome of the case can depend on a single word or statement. So it is very important to ensure that nothing is missed, misquoted or misinterpreted. A stringent quality assurance process is necessary where the transcripts are re-verified, proofread, reviewed and corrected. The service of professionals with expertise in dialects, accents and relevant terminology is also important.
- Maintaining Confidentiality – It is necessary to ensure that the wiretap is kept confidential and the contents not disclosed to unauthorized persons during the transcription process.
Under Wiretap Act, it is a crime to record a conversation without getting consent. Applications for wiretaps and orders allowing them must be sealed by a judge and should be disclosed only if it is proved for a good cause before a judge of competent jurisdiction.