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Translators and Confidentiality: How Secure Are Your Documents? 

Posted by Chloe G. on September 08, 2023.

Whether you work for a global company or have international ties, you’ll need documents translated sooner or later. Online translation tools can help you cover the basics, but what about highly sensitive information? You’ll naturally want an experienced, qualified person to handle them professionally and with discretion.

What should you do to transfer the documents safely? Moreover, how can you ensure a translator or service will maintain confidentiality? We offer comprehensive answers to both questions below.

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Ensuring Document Safety on Your End

Competent and professional translators will do everything to safeguard the contents and integrity of your documents. However, a translator is only the end recipient, and much can go wrong before they even receive a file.

Data is highly vulnerable during transit, so transferring it securely is a top priority. Sending over a USB is a bad idea since it lacks protection and can put the data at physical risk should it get damaged. Email is better, but not all providers take appropriate security measures. Cloud storage provides the optimal mix of protection and convenience.

Keeping your docs in the cloud means you and the translator can access them at any time. Or you can share them via a private timed link, making them temporarily accessible only to the translator. More importantly, data saved in the cloud gets end-to-end encryption. That means the contents are scrambled, and only the person you’re sending the file to has the means to make sense of them. This way, you can keep your files safe while in transit.

Cloud storage is an excellent backup solution. Keeping online backups ensures you don’t lose important files during power outages or if your hardware malfunctions or suffers damage. If you don’t restrict access via timer, it also lets translators retrieve the original if they lose or accidentally alter their copy.

Additionally, you should always password-protect sensitive documents you send off for translation. It’s prudent to use a long password without identifiable elements like names, birthdays, etc.

Choosing the Right Translator or Translation Company

You have a lot of agency in ensuring the safety and confidentiality of your documents by going with the right provider. Rather than only looking at their rates and services, spend some time on a background check or contact the translator directly with inquiries.

Confidentiality and ethics
Professional translators abide by a code of ethics and will not disclose information they come across while working on your document. Individuals who work for a translation company are bound not to share such info with coworkers. Similarly, it’s standard practice for subcontractors and freelance translators to sign NDAs.  These ensure document confidentiality during and after translation.

If you’re dealing with a company and don’t find assurances convincing, see if they comply with confidentiality standards. For example, a translation company that holds the ISO 27001 standard certificate demonstrates a commitment to upholding data security.

Individuals and companies dealing with others’ documents should have comprehensive measures in place to protect themselves against data breaches and unauthorized access. When selecting one, ask the following questions:

  • Do they update their work computers and use the latest translation and other software versions?
  • Do they have an exclusive and secure internet connection?
  • How do they store your digital files?
  • What is their policy regarding physical files and backups?
  • Who has access to your documents?
  • If a company uses a Translation Management System or TMS, can translators take documents out of it?

If you can answer all of these questions above, you will have an idea of how secure your files will be. You can also reach out to the company or the individual who will handle your documents and ask them.

Reliance on machine translation tools 
The rise of specialized online-based tools and the recent emergence of AI are transforming how translators approach tasks. The most sophisticated programs can create functional rough drafts. Human translators can then get these to an acceptable standard with less effort and time. Such tools could be problematic, depending on the provider and the way in which translators approach them.

On the one hand, there are safe applications for extracting specific terms and building glossaries. They work only with information the translator extracts from a document beforehand. This means they lack the context needed to detect relevant info or compromise confidentiality.

Free online translation services and large language models are on the other end. They take any input and use it for learning and refinement. That means they can access a document’s contents and may expose it to third parties if they know what to ask for.

Make sure your translator either avoids machine translation or uses only tools that don’t compromise a document’s security.


Feeling apprehensive when asking translators to work with sensitive documents is understandable. Forethought while selecting whom to entrust the files to and doing so through secure channels will ensure you get the best possible translation with confidentiality intact.