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wiretap

n. using an electronic device to listen in on telephone lines, which is illegal unless allowed by court order based upon a showing by law enforcement of "probable cause" to believe the communications are part of criminal activities. Use of wiretap is also a wrongful act for which the party whose telephones were tapped may sue the party performing the act and/or listening in as an invasion of privacy or for theft of information. A wiretap differs from a "bug," which is a radio device secretly placed in one's premises to listen in on conversations or to tape incoming calls without notice to the caller. The same rules of illegality and tort liability apply to "bugging."

See also: invasion of privacy  probable cause 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications