Online translation tools are on the rise, with many of them making it quick and easy to translate vast amounts of material into another language. A lot of the well-known translation tools found on the web are also free, making them even more appealing to cash-strapped companies and individuals who nonetheless need to better understand a document or audio recording. Yet in the age of GDPR, how could these online translation tools be breaching your newly-assigned GDPR policies?

  • How do online translation tools work?

Online translations are carried out in real-time. Head to the most popular online translation tools such as Google Translate, and you will soon discover that all you need do is copy and paste a piece of text in one language to translate it into another. It’s that quick and easy. There can be problems with the accuracy of these translations of course, particularly when converting large quantities of text; but for a simple way of better understanding a piece of communication where complete accuracy is not paramount, they work wonders.


  • Data protection, GDPR & online translation tools

However, if you are using online translation tools for business purposes, you should keep in mind that not only can an inaccurate translation be problematic, it could also get you into a great deal of legal trouble.

The introduction of GDPR last month has had dramatic consequences for every business in the EU, requiring each one to reassess existing practices and ensure data protection and transparency is assured for consumers. Consider carefully how much data the average business holds on its customers and business partners; much of it highly sensitive. Addresses, e-mails, workplaces – all this information must be kept in safe hands and be forgotten if requested. This is what GDPR is there to enforce.

Online translation tools can’t always guarantee the security of information to the same standard. Many store details in the cloud, or simply did not anticipate the appropriate level of security protocol which is now demanded. It is also vital to consider the sovereignty of the businesses behind these translation tools, as not all countries apply the same weight and standards to confidentiality – and this could mean much more is ‘lost in translation’ than gained!

  • When online translation goes wrong

The web is littered with tales of attempts at translating important documents and information using an online translation tool going badly wrong, to the detriment of not only the brand’s customer base, but their professional reputation and credibility too.

News channels in Norway had a field day in 2017 after it emerged that their state oil company, Statoil, had accidentally leaked information from staff and clients by using the free translation service to translate documents. Little did they know that all the information they translated was stored in the cloud, making it accessible to hackers.

Suddenly, everything from contract details to workforce plans, letters of dismissal and much more besides had been posted online. Scandinavian countries were quick to respond to this threat, with many blocking staff access to the translation site to prevent any similar occurrences in the future.

  • What are the alternatives?

For companies eager to stay on the right side of the law, the options are straightforward. A reputable translation agency will be able to assure complete confidentiality and dispose of all confidential information as required. Get in touch with us to find out more.