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General Scanning Discussion For general questions not specific to a model of scanner or general discussion of use of a scanner. Location specific posts should be directed to the regional forums listed below.

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Old 09-04-2009, 12:07 AM
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Default Public Safety Communications legality

Hello,

I have been listening to scanners for years. Never thought of any consequences that could come from it. I am a new ham radio op and we were having a discussion the other night on private information on public safety frequencies.

Our questions are: What legality is there on listening or retransmitting public safety communications. Is this considered private information? Also on scanners that can decipher trunking systems, system id and talkgroups, whether they are analog or digital, is that considered private information? And if yes, what consequences can come from giving out or deciphering such information?

I know that you should not give out or discuss some of the information heard on the public safety communications. Such as telephone numbers, addresses, SSN…..etc…

radioreference.com has all of this information (frequencies, talkgroups...etc..) So it must not be illegal????? Right????

Thank you for your time,
Dan
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Old 09-04-2009, 1:41 AM
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Here's the most recent discussion about your question.

RadioReference Formally Responds to MRA Demand to remove information

As you can see, you're not the first to ask this question.
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Old 09-04-2009, 2:31 AM
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Hello,

Thank you for your reply....

So:

1. 18 USC 2511 the radio communications are readily accessable to the general public their interception
is authorized.

Q: What do they mean by radio communications??? The data on the frequency? Such as Sys id and talk
group or regular voice or both?

2.Users of a frequency, have no expectation of privacy.

Q: Does this pertain to digital communications as well as analog? Trunked or not? Does this pertain to
public safety communications also?

3. Divulgment of information reguarding a users communications is protected speech under the first
ammendment. The right of privacy does not prohibit any publication of matter which is of public or
general interest.

Q: Does this pertain to public safety communications? Such as a persons SSN, address, Telephone
number....etc...??

4. If a user wants communications that provide privacy and excludes the possibility of unknown listeners,
it should avail itself to encryption technology such that the users communications would not be readily
accesable to the general public.

Q: Interception of an encrypted users communications is illegal. Therefore is the data contained in the
control channel a form of encryption? Whether digital or analog???

Thanks for you time,
Dan
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Old 09-04-2009, 2:39 AM
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This is actually a "simplified" answer:

Unless it's prohibited by the ECPA of 1986, it's perfectly legal to listen.

Anything after that, it's a gray area. Read the "Communications Act of 1934 as Amended", and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986".

Those are the acts of Congress that define what's legal and what's not. But here, even those documents come under debate, depending on how one interprets them. Basically, the Communications Act of 1934 will tell you that it's ok to listen, not ok to pass on what you hear. It also prohibits disclosure of the existence of some communications, so one could say that passing along frequencies and talk groups is questionable. We LOVE to argue about that here.

The ECPA goes one further, and defines some specific forms of communications that one is prohibited from even listening to.

Needless to say, retransmitting from one radio service into another is not legal. Streaming audio feeds onto the internet is a gray area in that some jurisdictions wish to prohibit it completely, while the FCC has yet to come out and say anything at all about it, to my knowledge.

My approach would be to keep a low profile. Listen to whatever you want, and then keep your mouth shut about it.
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Old 09-04-2009, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zz0468 View Post
My approach would be to keep a low profile. Listen to whatever you want, and then keep your mouth shut about it.
Common sense is what it all basically boils down to.
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Old 09-04-2009, 7:12 PM
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Here is the way to look at it. Retransmission of any public safety broadcast over another radio service is illegal unless directed to do so by an public safety official. Broadcast vias the internet is still legal as far as it goes. Disclosure is the big issue that is being contested. Just basically pretend that the airwaves are Vegas... What happens in Vegas... Stays in Vegas! The only truely illegal conversations to monitor are scrambled/encrypted, and wireless telephone (cellular and wireless handsets) unless siad comms are illegal to begin with... Basic common sense will keep you out of hot water in this arena. Monitoring vias scanner for your personal enjoyment is basically legal... Check your local laws pertaining to mobile usage etc.... Have fun.
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Old 09-05-2009, 9:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zz0468 View Post
My approach would be to keep a low profile. Listen to whatever you want, and then keep your mouth shut about it.

The above quote is outstanding advice. Well said, zz0468!
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Old 09-06-2009, 7:40 AM
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Have a look here... Live Scanner Radio From Ft. Myers, FL

and here... http://www.pinelakeshome.com/Scanner/mtlettersdec07.pdf
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Old 09-06-2009, 11:42 AM
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I would have to agree with zz0468 on this!
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