Process optimization

Free machine translation engines – handy, but not always secure

free translation tools

Free translation services have been part of everyday life for some time now – almost all of us have used them to quickly get a rough idea of what an e-mail or document says. And why wouldn’t you? Free online tools give you an instant result, and sometimes the translations they produce are extremely good. And the more they learn, the better they get.

Translators and language service providers can’t afford to ignore this technology if they want to avoid getting left behind by their competitors. In fact, many of them have already started testing various fee-based translation engines to see if they can improve the service they offer their clients. You may, though, be wondering why you should pay for machine translations when there are plenty of free engines available. If so, remember that while using free machine translation engines might not have any effect on your bank balance, you’ll end up paying for it in other ways: take a look at the terms of service for these free machine translation engines and you’ll find that your data and content are not kept secure or confidential. 

If you need to translate content which should (for now at least) be kept confidential, ask yourself these questions before running the text through a free machine translation engine:

  • Does the machine translation engine process the content I enter into it beyond producing the translation?
  • Does the engine save the imported text? If so, where is it saved?
  • Is the content I enter used to improve future translations produced by the engine?

You’ll find the answers to these questions in the terms of service. With many free machine translation services you’ll see that your data are saved in one form or another and/or processed beyond producing the translation.

There’s nothing wrong with this – in fact, from the provider’s point of view, it makes a lot of sense. The more text is entered into the engines, the more material they have to learn from. And in order to learn from the material, they need to access, process, reuse and modify the data you have entered and the resulting translation in the target language. All users of this service benefit from the content and from the continuous improvement in the engine’s output just as much as you will when you next use it. The issue is when these data aren’t supposed to be in the public domain: some businesses have discovered after using a machine translation engine that their confidential content could be viewed in its entirety via a simple Google search. It comes down to how and where each engine stores the content, so you and your staff need to be aware that if you use engines that don’t offer data security, your texts will no longer be confidential and could be accessed by absolutely anyone. Don’t get caught out!

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