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Was Your Confidential Data Exposed on Translate.com?

Posted on September 22nd, 2017

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Some machine translation services may have security risksMachine translation is an essential tool for many businesses and organizations in today’s world. We work with people who speak different languages, especially in cases where operations have been outsourced to foreign countries. In other cases, important documents need to be translated. It would be difficult or impossible to conduct some operations without machine translation services. However, some of these services may lack basic security measures. Your confidential data could be at risk of being exposed.

Translate.com is being accused of improperly storing data translated by its free machine translator. Confidential data translated by this free service was indexed by Google and Microsoft search engines.

Statoil, Norway’s state-run oil company, discovered that text typed into Translate.com could be found by performing a Google search. The company found that its workforce reduction plans, dismissal letters, contracts and other sensitive information were easily accessible.

To uncover the extent of the problem, Statoil began performing Google searches to pull other confidential information. The company pulled a physician’s email with a pharmaceutical company, an investment bank’s employee performance metrics and termination letters. These searches also revealed addresses, names and phone numbers.

On September 6, Translate.com wrote a blog post discussing the controversy. In the blog post, Translate.com claimed that it used human translators in the past to improve its algorithms. The company said they made documents submitted for translation public for these translators.

The Translate.com controversy is a classic example of how using a free service can come with hidden costs. If you are a business owner, then try to imagine what your competitors could do with some of the confidential information stored by a free machine translation service.

ILS performs machine translation services within our secure firewall. We do not use cloud-based solutions, such as Google Translate.

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