What You Should Know About Secure Machine Translation

September 27, 2021
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Is machine translation secure?
Can you trust your confidential data with an artificial intelligence translator?
What do you need to know to keep yourself safe with this relatively new technology?
Some compelling benefits come with adding machine translation to your workflow. But, there are also potential security risks that you need to be aware of.
By preparing yourself for these risks, you can ensure that you get the most from machine translation without endangering the security of your data or computer systems.
There is one key step you can take to keep yourself safe.

Is Google Translate secure?

Many companies are keen to use more machine translation in their businesses.
This makes a lot of sense. You see how effective tools like Google Translate have become over the years and you think “Can’t we just use those automated tools instead of human translators?”
It’s certainly true that machine translation can be handy. For example, there are even free extensions that you could add to your website to automatically translate it into hundreds of different languages at the touch of a button.
But, using these tools would be unwise.
Tools like the public Google Translate aren’t a reliable or safe way to translate your content.
The security policies of such tools are governed by the companies that host them (for example Google) and their privacy policies. These often give the companies the rights to host, reproduce, distribute, and use your content in any way that they like.
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What about subscription machine translation services?

Even some subscription services that offer “secure machine translation” (for example the commercial version of Google Translate) are not inherently secure.
There are still plenty of use cases where your company could be at risk if you use these machine translation services in the wrong way.
You have to be careful about cybersecurity whenever you use a machine translation tool.

6 benefits of using strategic, secure machine translation

Despite the security risks that we outline below, there are several appealing benefits to using machine translation to convert content for your international markets.
Some benefits include:
  1. Cheaper cost per word compared to fully human translation… if the tool is used correctly.
  2. Quicker translation delivery as you can receive translations almost instantly.
  3. Suits your schedules as you are not waiting for human translators to return the work.
  4. Able to scale instantly as machine translation systems can handle a huge amount of content.
  5. Allows continuous translation, which is perfect for applications like software development.
  6. Improves translation efficiency by reducing human touches to a minimum.
The difficulty with machine translation is its various associated security risks.

5 security risks of using the wrong machine translation

What security risks could you be facing if you approach machine translation in the wrong way or use the wrong service?
Here are 5 common risks:

1. Losing control over your data

Machine translation services can be problematic because you are sending your content through third-party connectors. At this point, you lose direct control of how that data is stored and shared.
Of course, you always lose some direct control when you use external suppliers. The challenge with machine translation is that the sending of information happens so quickly, with little to no human interaction.

2. Potential compliance issues

In many industries (for example the financial industry or medical industry), data compliance regulations are strict. You need to know where your data is, who can access it, and how it is stored.
This is not always the case with some machine translation services.
Compliance issues can also result from poorly translated content being published to your audiences, which is far more likely with machine translation as the accuracy of such tools is relatively low.

3. Loss or theft of intellectual property

Your content is your intellectual property (IP). Research by McAfee found that 21% of files stored in the cloud contain sensitive IP.
When your content is sent and stored on external systems, there is always some risk that this content could end up in the wrong hands.
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4. Revenue losses

Various potential revenue losses are associated with machine translation.
You could lose revenue due to the clean-up effort after a data breach. You could lose company trust and sales if a cybersecurity event is made public.
And, although it’s not a security risk, you could also lose revenue if unchecked machine translations are published. The resulting low-quality content could reflect badly on your business and lose you sales.

5. Poorly linked computer systems

A core point of risk when using machine translation is the hand-off.
A hand-off is any point when you send content to the machine translation tool or you receive translated content back. At this point, there are more chances for your data to be shared and copied to multiple places unnecessarily.

How to tell if a machine translation service is secure

How can you overcome the security risks inherent in using a machine translation tool?
The key is to get advice from a translation provider who fully understands translation security. They can advise you on the specific actions that you need to take to keep your systems and data safe when using such services.
The worst thing you could do would be to just start using a machine translation tool with no security advice.
Here at Rubric, we are certified for information security. We have the relevant ISO certifications for our internal processes and years of experience securely hooking into our clients’ systems.
We also have extensive experience working with a number of different machine translation tools. We can advise you on the best ways to use such tools and help you get the most from them.
Just send us a message to ask us about your unique situation.