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The dangers of using free translation software have been highlighted recently by the discovery of private company information online. Statoil ASA, a Norwegian multinational oil and gas company, had used a free online translation software to translate documents including contracts, downsizing plans and dismissal notices. This was discovered when a researcher Googled the company’s name and found these confidential documents in the results.

Statoil’s free translation tool, in common with other online translation tools, stored the words entered and their translations into its translation engine.  It then used previous translations in order to improve future translations. That means anyone else who uses an online translation tool after you have may be able to access your data. Whether your information winds up on Google from there depends on where and how the tool provider stores it.

The company Statoil relied on also used volunteer human translators to edit and proof translations, increasing the risk that translations would be shared online and end up on a search engine. They said:  “This ‘old’ volunteer segment is now closed, and all translations involving volunteers have been removed. The online machine translations, which are still available for free, will no longer be saved.”

For reasons of confidentiality, many large companies such as BASF do not allow employees to use free translation software at all. But wouldn’t it be OK just to use free online translation tools just for non-sensitive information?  The problem is that employees may not know whether an email or letter is commercially sensitive until it is translated, but the ease of use of free online translation tools makes them attractive to get a quick translation, so it’s tempting to try it. This is why BASF do not allow use at all.

For accurate translation and confidentiality, Accutranslate can help – give us a ring and find out more!