Is Free Translation Software Putting your Sensitive Information at Risk?

Some of the risks of free translation software are already widely recognised online – mostly in the form of hilarious mistranslations that have befallen certain unfortunate brands and individuals. The literality of translation programs mean that idioms and culturally specific phrases particularly often get lost in translation – much to the amusement of the internet.

Funny translation: Do not disturb - tiny grass is dreaming
photo credit:

However, there are other, lesser publicised risks to using such programs. If you are working with a free service provider there is a large chance that your information is not safe. Sensitive business facts, figures and topics may be shared without your knowledge. It’s all in the small print.

Google Translate cannot guarantee safety of your information

When reading Google Translate’s rules and regulations it states that it claims no ownership of any material translated. ‘You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content‘. This is great news but it doesn’t end there, unfortunately. There are still ways in which your information can be stored and used.

Google T and C translated from English to Italian

The T&C’s then read: By uploading things on to Google based programs ‘you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content’.

As Google states in their Privacy Policy their main aim in collecting this information is to improve their services. But you are essentially signing away information to a potentially public domain. This is the same for most, if not all, free translation services.


You should only work with translators or services that can provide you with the security assurances of your business documents like references or ISO accreditations. The first company to be awarded the British Standard For Translation, London Translations, stress the importance of keeping your information secure as this way your mind can be at rest that any sensitive information is in safe hands and will not be distributed against your will. It also means you can trust the translation service to do a good job in all other elements.

Don’t forget the dangers of free WiFi

Another important if slightly more obvious danger is to use free online translation services on an unsecured network. If you are using shared or some form of free WiFi, information can be taken by outsider parties as it is transferred or accessed over an unsecured network or public hotspot, or by storing it on certain cloud servers.

You want Wi-Fi with that?
photo credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr

If you’re working in a shared environment make sure your connection is secure and that others do not have remote access to to your files through the cloud or other shared networks. If your laptop is filled with sensitive information it is best to avoid unsecured networks altogether.

If your business information is sensitive it can be worth spending the extra money in order to keep it secure by using a service that’s fine print works to protect you rather than just itself.