Say you need a quick document translation. You choose an online tool like translate.com or Google Translate, pick the language you want, copy your text, drop the text in, and presto! In moments you can read a version in your desired tongue. Great, right? Not if your translating personal, private, or sensitive corporate documents. It has now been reported that many free online translation tools give up an astonishing variety of sensitive information freely accessible to anyone.
Based on many inaccuracies, odd translations and security weaknesses when using free online translation tools it is clear there are lots of room for improvement, especially for corporate or professional users.
Late last year a Norwegian investigative agency did an report on several popular free online translation sites that ended up revealing how a simple Google search made available sensitive personal and corporate translation information from these translation sites —contracts, workforce reduction plans, dismissal letters, a physician’s email exchange with a global pharmaceutical company on tax matters, a staff performance report of a global investment bank, and termination letters and more—were available online because people had used a free translation service that stored their data online.
For sure. That said, if you take a closer look at some of the “Terms of Service” agreements like you see on translate.com you’ll notice that “they can’t and don’t offer any guarantees with regards to the effectiveness of any security”. They also go on to discuss how 3rd parties may access your translation text to help improve on their computer translation methods.
Unclear language embedded with legal terminology and contractual jargon puts a lot of pressure on those wishing to make use of these free tools.
That said, people have a right to expect organizations to look after any personal information they may disclose. That means having basic controls in place to prevent criminals getting in and stealing data, and avoiding the situation where people can inadvertently disclose sensitive information.
I would say, before using free online translation tools, people should always ask themselves if they and/or their customer would be content if their information became publicly available?