5 Questions To Ask Regarding Translation and Confidential Information

Language service providers often handle translation projects containing sensitive and confidential information. Examples of this type of project include merger and acquisition documents, legal documents, and personnel records. Buyers of translation services should ask these questions to better understand how their content is being handled.

While all firms may handle sensitive information differently, here are some best practices and recommendations to go with each question.


1. What steps do you take to ensure that our confidential information remains confidential?

There are multiple steps your translation provider can take to ensure confidential information is properly protected or to prevent a loss of control over access to that data.

  • The company’s internet connection shouldn’t be shared with other offices in the complex.
  • The connection should be protected by a firewall and properly secured.
  • Guest networks should be isolated from the production network.
  • The translation management system (TMS) should be centralized and properly secured. If the company doesn’t follow this approach, they may be sending your files outside of their office. A centrally managed TMS sends out tasks with raw text versus sending out formatted files that can be further distributed.
  • Translation tasks should be set up so that the files cannot be checked out by translators.
  • Each translator should sign an NDA with the translation service provider.
  • The translation provider should sign an NDA with the customer.
  • All workstations in the firm should be secured by passwords with an expiration policy.


2. Do you use other translation companies (teams or subcontractors) when working on our confidential projects?

It is almost inevitable that your translation provider will use freelance subcontractors. The translation industry is fueled by qualified and professional freelance translators. This is true of both small providers and large providers. Because of the steps outlined in the first question, there should be no problem handling confidential materials. The freelance translators are bound by NDAs and would have little access to sensitive information other than by logging into the translation management system.

If the firm uses other smaller companies to handle specific translation tasks, please ensure that they follow the same practices with any and all of their partners.


3. How does your TMS store our files?

Most Language Service Providers use Translation Management Systems (TMS) to store all of your translations so that the content can be reused on updates to similar projects. TMS technology saves you time and money and creates consistency across similar documents. The million-dollar question is, how does your provider store that memory? Does all of the memory go into a huge database where all customer content is co-mingled? That is a huge risk and could be a way in which your intellectual property is being used for the benefit of others.

The flip side of that question is, does your provider store all of your projects separately in the database? This could be reducing your translation memory savings by not leveraging your projects against one another. An example would be where you have two manuals for two separate products that have a fair amount of similarity. In order to maximize your savings and consistency across product lines, but also preserve your intellectual property, your translation provider should be storing project memories and updating a master memory for your account that is siloed from all other companies.

That means that each customer has its own silo or container for its translation memory (TM). Your provider should NOT co-mingle translation memories. Co-mingling of translation memory assets has become very popular as translation firms are racing to “train” or populate machine translation engines with as much human translation as possible. You should have a very clear understanding of how your translation memory will be stored and used.


4. Does the Translation Management System (TMS) let translators take data out? According to a recent Common Sense Advisory (CSA) article, translators are prone to removing materials from the TMS [to move it into a tool they might like better.]

The option of a freelancer exporting his own TM should be disabled in your provider’s TMS. The export should only be created by a project manager from your translation firm for special instances where that export might make sense. Forcing freelancers to work in a single system will control the outcome and ensure that your content is not distributed into other systems.


5. According to Common Sense Advisory (CSA), 64 percent of translation professionals say that their colleagues frequently use free translation services on the web. Do you have a policy in place with your linguists regarding using cloud-based, free tools when translating our confidential information?

Many TMSs allow for connections to free machine translation (MT) solutions like Google. This option allows a translator to fill in a machine translation and modify the results in a process known as MT post-editing. This option should also be disabled in your provider’s system. If this option is enabled your content could still find its way into a shared environment where it can be discovered by other users without much additional effort. If you are going to use MT as an option with your provider please make sure and cover what MT engine will be used and if the content submitted to the MT engine is open to public consumption.

In today’s environment, where your sensitive information can be quickly distributed and disseminated in a few clicks, you should be very curious as to how your translation firm is handling your content. By following a few best practices your content can be secure but also highly available for your translation teams so they can do a great job and build out your translation memory database to create opportunities for savings on future translation projects.


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