News broke at the beginning of the month that large amounts of documents that had been submitted to Translate.com were visible to the general public.
Norwegian news agency NRK was the first to run the story, which detailed the exposure of sensitive information about Statoil, Norway’s state oil company. Contracts, workforce reduction plans and dismissal letters were publicly available to see online after the company had opted for a free online tool for their translation needs, in place of using a translation agency.
Slator, a translation industry news site, investigated further and reported similar findings for other companies and industries, including documents such as email exchanges, late payment notices, tax matters and termination letters.
Reaction from governments and institutions was quick and abrupt. The Oslo Stock exchange instantly blocked access to Translate.com.
Translation tool privacy breach explained
Translate.com offered a full and detailed explanation of how this privacy breach occurred, stating that the documents in question had been submitted via a system that ceased to be used two years ago.
Up until the end of 2015, Translate.com used volunteers to translate documents submitted to the site. These documents were stored on the cloud so that all volunteers had access to them. This also meant that they were publicly available online.
Translate.com defended their system choice, stating that it had issued clear warnings on their homepage. The point was also made that the free service was not appropriate for business use involving sensitive data, and that a private, protected and payable enterprise service would be better suited.
An apology was offered, together with a strong warning to remove private data from documents that are submitted, including names, addresses and phone numbers.
Why translation agencies are a safer option
When employing the services of a translation agency, you can rest assured that your data will be treated with the utmost privacy. Reputable agencies will have non-disclosure agreements that are signed as a matter of routine to ensure 100% confidentiality.
Using a free online translation tool may be an appealing way of saving money, but is it worth the risk? Exposing sensitive data and information could cost your business much more than money. You could lose your hard-earned reputation and client base.