Machine Translation: Is Your Confidential Content Safe?

Did you ever ask yourself what exactly happens to that data? In many cases the content becomes the property of the engine provider, allowing them to use the information as they see fit.

→ View our recorded webinar “How Machine Translation
Can Help Protect Your Intellectual Property"

You probably have a data security breach thanks to free MT tools

When content is entered into a free web-based machine translation tool, it is being delivered outside of your firewall and into the possession of another company. This probably isn’t a big deal when I’m trying to translate my Aunt Sophia’s family meatball recipe from Italian, or when I translate the assembly instructions for my kid’s train set from the Chinese manual I found online.

But what about confidential corporate content? What about staff reviews sent to HR by overseas managers? What about the contracts from your Chinese manufacturing suppliers? What about patient test results from that lab in Quebec? What about the notes from the German product development staff about the new product that hasn’t launched yet?

Your employees are almost certainly entering content like this into free web-based machine translation tools. Now you have a problem.

Here are 4 tips to help you scope and correct the security problems caused by free Machine Translation tools:

Tip 1: Check the ULA of “free" online machine translation tools

Do free web-based translation tools retain your content? Do they use it to tune their translation engines? Do they retain metadata to measure performance? Do your search terms and phrases become the content used to auto-populate searches and translations for other far-flung users outside of your organization?

You should carefully check the User License Agreement (ULA) of these tools to see what the risk might be — and be sure to check back frequently because the terms of service are subject to change at any time.

Tip 2: Ask IT to monitor the use of free online machine translation tools

You might be surprised! One of our clients asked IT to monitor it and found that over 1GB per month of content was being entered into these tools, and some of it was highly confidential in nature. It is a relatively trivial matter for IT to track the use of the IP addresses for these websites. They could even take more extreme measures such as displaying a warning message about security and IP protection in the browser whenever an employee accesses these sites, or blocking them altogether.

Tip 3: Deploy a private machine translation portal for your employees

The number one cause of this problem is that most companies simply do not provide a better alternative for their employees. We have helped our customers deploy secure private machine translation engines that work with your security protocols to provide the same functionality without putting your sensitive corporate data in a compromising position.

In fact, our clients report that private machine translation portals deliver superior translation quality because they use MT engines tuned especially for each client’s industry, leveraging their linguistic assets like translation memory and terminology databases.

Tip 4: Consider whether you want on-premise or SaaS deployment

We often get questions about the security of MT services hosted in the cloud. It’s really important, and you should definitely ask your MT provider for details about their deployment options.

SDL’s cloud-based machine translation service, Language Cloud MT, provides enterprises with an MT service that is fully customizable and trainable and comes with various integration points to connect with content repositories. SDL and any underpinning cloud providers are ISO 27001 certified. SDL is a member of Safe Harbor, maintaining its own independent security, audit and compliance team. Generally this level of investment in security staff, facilities, and technology exceeds that which is affordable by most organizations for their on-site data centers.

However, we do also offer on-premise installation in your own data center — a deployment option mandated by many of our government customers. So if on-premise deployment of machine translation gives you better peace of mind, we can accommodate that.

Whether you go cloud or on-premise, the point I’m trying to make is that you can use machine translation for your confidential content. You just need to make sure that you are using a fully secure solution so you aren’t exposing your IP to the world.

View our recorded webinar “How Machine Translation Can Help Protect Your Intellectual Property" to learn how Texas Instruments deployed a secure private instant translation tool for employees to conform to security policies and protect Intellectual Property.