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Combadges are used for communications from individuals to other persons, starships, planetary locations and anywhere else within the range of the device. They also function as a locator device for transporter beams and have integrated universal translators. (VOY episode: The 37's, et al.)
Starfleet first began using combadges in the late 23rd century to the early 24th century. The combadge replaced the earlier communicator. Starfleet combadges are worn by officers, enlisted personnel, Starfleet Academy cadets, and other personnel attached to Starfleet. Starfleet combadges are worn on an individual's left breast. (TNG episode: "Yesterday's Enterprise")
Academy cadets were not allowing using the combadges during off hours for communications without emergency contact authorization by a Starfleet officer. David Forester was annoyed by that practice during his first year, and understood that, as in any other military academy, the point was to make life harder. (TOS novel: Starfleet Academy)
In 2364 Tasha Yar modified her combadge to output a high pitched whine, sufficiently distracting and pain inducing to allow her and Commander Riker to fight their way past numerous guards on the planet Tigan. (TNG comic: History Lesson)
In an alternate timeline in which Deanna Troi died in 2368, by 2408 Starfleet had replaced the combadge with devices that were implanted in a person's body. These devices allowed for greater security as only the recipient could hear the conversation. If a person wished they could whisper and not be heard by any bystanders, but clearly heard by the recipient at the other end.(TNG novel: Imzadi)
In an alternate version of the mirror universe timeline, where the Terran Empire still exists in the 24th century, the Imperial Starfleet does not use personal combadges, as they would make crewmembers too easy to track down and kill. All communications are handled by the ship's computer. (TNG novel: Dark Mirror)