Can Translators Be Trusted With Your Business Information?


As organisations become global and communities multi-cultural, business and government processes increasingly rely on efficient, accurate and affordable translation. Most organisations do not have teams of in-house translators, and so the work often is outsourced to agencies and freelancers, raising security concerns about sensitive data. Does handing information over for translation, mean businesses give up control and compromise confidentiality? This should not be the case.

Translators are professional and ethical, but the process of obtaining a high quality translation often requires content to pass through multiple systems and numerous hands, raising a range of security issues. External translators working in multiple environments, for example, could result in data inadvertently passing through an unsecure network. The tools used to translate, such as shared Translation Memory (TM), could disclose confidential information across clients. Public Machine Translation (MT) tools may also compromise privacy via the Internet.

Here are some ideas to consider when managing the translation of sensitive information:

Bring Translators In-House

Arranging for translators to work onsite allows security policies to stay in force. You can prevent translators from sending documents to anyone outside your firewall, and can ensure that they take away only what is in their heads. Although secure, the administrative effort and cost is high; finding qualified translators to work at your premises on an ad-hoc basis is challenging. This approach works best, and is most cost effective, where there is significant, continuing demand for the translation services.

Insist On Confidentiality Agreements

Security standards vary between translators and may not always comply with your own. Although contracts and agreements are not always read, and do not necessarily result in secure behaviour, backing these up with regular security audits and training to refresh awareness and address changes in processes will help ensure your data is protected.

Constrain Work To Your Virtual Environment

This will protect your data but, as with onsite translation, requires investment and expertise to set up and, if not done properly, may impact translation effectiveness and so increase cost.

Check References

Credit worthiness and criminal records may be checked although, when translators are in another country, this is not always a straightforward process. Official checks may be unavailable, incomplete, slow and costly to process; third-party references and recognised accreditations may provide better information.

Reputations may also be checked on public sites and forums. It is important to marry the need for accurate, cost effective translations with good security practice, and yet retaining control and ensuring data security can increase cost and time, and impact quality. To achieve all objectives requires access to the best in translation technology with qualified subject matter expert translators working within a secure environment.

To ensure the best possible outcome when translating sensitive documents, consider the following best practices:

  • Locate Translation Memory (TM) in a secure, controlled environment to mitigate the risk of information being recycled inappropriately. A translator able to work with TM reduces cost and turnaround time.
  • Use a secured PC link when using Machine Translation (MT) tools: when employees need to quickly get the gist of a document it is difficult to prevent the use of public MT systems. It’s expensive to create and validate an internal engine across many language pairs, so it may be more practical to use a secured PC link to an approved provider.
  • Store files in a secure server to actively protect confidential information. Translators should only have access to files within a secure virtual environment. Consider the impact that storing files in this way (within firewalls, behind multi-factor authentication and automatically removing documents after project completion) could have on the access to and security of content. For example, translators would only be able to access files within the secure server; they would not be able to print, use USBs or other removable media to copy data and would be restricted from sending content to a local machine via clipboard, file transfer, drive mapping or any other means.

It can be complicated. Most organisations would rather focus on core business than spend time and money becoming experts in the intricacies of secure translation. A simpler and safer approach is to use established language service providers who offer professional translators working in a controlled environment. These providers use the best technology while providing the systems and processes to enforce the very best in secure translation.

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Janet Webberley is Head of Digital, Creative and Language Services at Xerox, Communication and Marketing Services, and is responsible for designing, developing, localising and producing multimedia content in support of product/service launches for blue chip customers.