Be on the Safe Side: Protect Your Translations

Blog post of Dec 3, 2018

Does your enterprise have a clearly defined translation process? Do you know how many people get to see a translation before it is actually published? Information security is a highly topical issue, especially in view of the numerous privacy breaches that have been identified in recent years.

No matter how much enterprises do for their data security on their own systems, the risk of unauthorized access always arises as soon as texts are sent to external translators. Therefore, it is important to know exactly who processes your translation jobs and how secure the technical infrastructure at the parties involved in the process is.

An Article by

Christian Weih
Management Board, Across Systems

The Typical Translation Process

A company develops an innovative product and intends to keep the time to market as short as possible. To make this possible, the translation of the manual is ordered even before the market launch.

The company thus engages a language service provider and determines the due date. The project is very large, and to meet the deadline, the language service provider forwards parts of the project to one of his subcontractors. Both the language service provider and the subcontractor employ freelance translators. One of these translators is very busy, as he is already working on a number of other projects.

However, as he does not want to turn down the offer, he asks a fellow translator whether he could handle half of the job. The translator accepts the job and receives the document by e-mail. The finished translation goes back to the first freelancer, who sends it to the subcontractor, who in turn forwards it to the company's language service provider. Following a final quality check, the finished manual is submitted to the company.

In typical processes like this one, information is inevitably exposed to unnecessary risks. Often, the non-disclosure agreements that are concluded to reduce such risks are not sufficient, as it is difficult to verify whether they are duly complied with. Just think of the incident that occurred back in 2004, when a translator tried to sell the manual of a German submarine to the Chinese secret service. Violations may not always be that bad, but even if information is not forwarded on purpose, non-disclosure agreements cannot protect each and every process-related data transfer.

In typical translation processes, information is inevitably exposed to unnecessary risks.

Why Non-Disclosure Agreements Alone Are Not Sufficient

The larger your company is, the more your supply chain usually lacks in transparency. For example, external translators may store your translations on their local systems and inadvertently make them available to third parties. Moreover, a process that is not transparent involves a greater risk of human error. For instance, you do not know anything about the network used, e-mails are not always secure, and messages can accidentally be sent to a wrong address.

The more effective approach is to combine non-disclosure agreements with suitable technologies in order to make your translation processes more secure.

With the suitable technologies you can make your translation processes more secure.

Tips to Effectively Protect Your Translations

By using a translation management system, you can easily increase your information security by establishing a closed work and system environment. Translation management systems combine the translation environment with a translation memory and a terminology system and offer numerous project and workflow management tools. For example, smart process automation can help prevent your projects from mistakenly being sent to unauthorized recipients.

The first step would be to define your translation processes and map them to the system. Additionally, you should introduce measures to retain the data sovereignty in your company:

  • Analyze your translation processes for automation possibilities. Many recurring manual processes and the associated error sources can be prevented.
  • Introduce a password-protected login to protect your translation environment from unauthorized access.
  • Use the change history function to check who prepares your translations. This function shows who edited your projects.
  • It would be advisable to only make sensitive projects available to a limited group of recipients. For example, you can determine that your language service provider cannot employ any additional subcontractor or that the freelance translator cannot forward parts of the project.
  • Only make your reference documents, translation memories, and terminology databases available to the providers in the context of the respective projects.
  • Moreover, it would be advisable to determine that your translation and the associated translation memories and terminology databases cannot be stored locally by the language service provider and by the translators.

Additional Tip

Open communication is a vital aspect when cooperating with language service providers or translators. Before you change the process, explain to your contact why you intend to implement highly restrictive settings. For you as the customer, it is of course also beneficial to know how the new settings will impact your translation partner.

Is It Safe to Use Machine Translation?

Another benefit of a translation management system is that you can securely connect machine translation systems via interfaces. By connecting machine translation services such as DeepL Pro, SYSTRAN, or KantanMT for professional use via a translation management system, you retain the data sovereignty at all times. You can thus boost your productivity and cut your costs while at the same time protecting your information according to advanced data protection standards.

On the other hand, processing texts with a free online translation tool could mean revealing valuable data to the respective provider. As a result, users could have unlimited access to these data, as a number of users painfully noticed in 2017, when Google indexed thousands of web pages of the free translation service Translate.com—including web pages containing sensitive user information. Among other things, the data included e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, passwords, and even entire contracts. Some of the free services process the data in order to improve their translation proposals. In fact, this is also what the companies' GTC say. So legally speaking, they are on solid ground.

Are you interested in information security? Download our free white paper now in order to read more about this subject. You can also find further information in our guest article in the EVS Translations blog.