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Eavesdropping is the intercepting of conversations by unintended recipients. One who participates in eavesdropping (i.e. someone who secretly listens in on the conversations of others) is called an eavesdropper. The origin of the term comes from situations in which people would literally hide out in the eavesdrop of a house to listen in on private conversations.


[edit] History

Eavesdropping was already prohibited by ancient Anglo-Saxon law. From the Saxon custom arose the term eavesdropping, as being one who pries into the business of others or listens to private conversations. By common law, an eavesdropper was regarded as a nuisance. The offense was punishable by fine. Though the offense of eavesdropping still exists in common law, there is no modern instance of a prosecution or indictment.

[edit] Techniques

Eavesdropping can also be done over telephone lines, email, instant messaging, and any other method of communication considered private. (If a message is publicly broadcast, witnessing it does not count as eavesdropping).

Messages can be protected against eavesdropping by employing a security service of confidentiality (or privacy). This security service is usually implemented by encryption.

In ancient China, it is said that to prevent eavesdropping when discussing important matters, soldiers would instead draw the characters on hands or papers.

The Canadian heroine Laura Secord is famous for having eavesdropped on the plans of the American army and delivering this information to the British.

"Belly-buster" hand-audio listening devices. After assembly, the base of the drill was held firmly against the stomach while the handle was cranked manually. This kit came with several drill bits and accessories.

[edit] Eavesdropping in fiction

Eavesdropping is something of a clichéd plot device in fiction, allowing the hero or villain to gain vital information by deliberately or accidentally overhearing a conversation. For instance, in "Letting In the Jungle" by Rudyard Kipling, Mowgli overhears the hunter Buldeo telling some men that Mowgli's adopted mother Messua is about to be executed, so Mowgli sets about rescuing her.

Eavesdropper - new novel by daya dissanayake, winner of a manuscript competition by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka, 2006

[edit] See also

es:Eavesdropping fr:Écoute clandestine pt:Eavesdropping fi:Salakuuntelu sv:Avlyssning


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