CONFIDENTIAL: be aware when using machine translation

The lure of free machine translation can be strong when working to a tight budget or deadline.

The obvious drawback of a poor-quality translation is often overlooked when all you need is to understand the gist of a document, however most users do not consider the technical side of what happens to the data that you put into translation machines.

The Orwellian theory that online giants are spying on your every move and storing your data for their own purposes of subliminal marketing is nothing new. We have all experienced the magic of targeted advertising when using popular search engines and email accounts; those little adverts that miraculously contain your search terms and email subject headers. Most people are unaware that machine translation services use the same process to feed their servers with the content that you upload. In doing so, they can also store your personal and business information.

The terms of service on the Google Translate website, for example, state that “By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

They also state that “… You agree that this license includes a right for G. to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom G. has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.”

When a text is assigned for translation to an agency, there are confidentiality standards in place in order to ensure that any information is not shared with third parties other than the translators. The fact that you are translating your content into a particular language, for example, could be potentially valuable business information as it may indicate that your company is expanding into new international markets.

Machine Translation services have no such confidentiality agreements, so you are essentially allowing them unlimited use of your personal data. We would encourage you therefore to think twice before inadvertently providing translation machine servers with your valuable personal and business information.

References

http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/

PORSIEL, Jörg: “Machine Translation and data security”, ITI Bulletin (May-June 2011)

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