The stealth mode of starships plays a huge role in many Star Trek films and episodes and is a strong advantage in combat. I remember an episode revealing that the Federation developed a secret stealth technology (afair on Riker's former ship with another captain appearing in this episode) that even made it possible to fly with the ship through matter.
Nonetheless, while stealth technology seems standard for Romulans, Klingons (Ferengi, Vulcans?) and does not break any intergalactic laws (do these exist at all?), the Federation doesn't use it?