Several months ago we explored the pros and cons of using Google Translate vs. Humans (professional translators from a translation quality.)  In this post we drew a couple of key conclusions.  First, Google Translate is very helpful and cost effective when you want to get the gist of certain text or when quality doesn’t matter. Second, professional translators and agencies are essential and worth the investment when quality is important. The bottom line: machine translation has yet to equal a human’s ability to communicate the nuances and true meaning of words when it counts.

Since publishing this post, there have been some developments that might make it tempting to forego professional translation for Google’s free option. For certain content this may make sense, but we believe you need the bigger picture before opting for short-term savings over longer term cost.

Google’s Enhancements Improve Quality of Output

In November, Google announced major enhancements to their translation platform, which greatly enhances the output for certain languages and they plan to include more languages as they continue to build the critical mass in the data repositories for additional languages.  It’s great news for the 500,000+ people who use Google Translate every day. The improved communication and understanding implied by these improvements can only be viewed as positive.

Once again, this may tempt many business people to opt for a free translation system over using the more expensive option of human translation. “Free” is a very tempting word, especially for business translations that are unplanned and budgeted for. There is, however, an important downside to using free platforms such as Google Translate.

Without getting into all the technical details about how Google Translates’ neural machine translation engine works, there are important and possibly unintended consequences of using it to translate your business documents, especially if they are sensitive or confidential in nature.

Great, Except When Confidentiality Matters

What are these consequences?  In a nutshell they may be the unintentional broadcasting of your sensitive, private or confidential information. While it may not be readily apparent, a thorough read of Google Translate’s Terms and Services reveals that:

“When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, 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 we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

It Pays to Understand How Google Translate Works

Machine Translation systems such as Google Translate need massive amounts of data to work well and these databases (or engines) are populated with hundreds of millions of documents that have already been translated by human translators, generally in the public domain. The more and better quality of the data populating these databases, the better the results of translation searches by all those 500,000+ daily users.  While Google uses already-translated, publicly available material such as United Nations and European Union documents, it is in their interest to access as much translated data as possible to continue to improve the quality of their output.

This is great for communication and understanding, but not when it jeopardizes your business interests such as trade secrets or potentially violates confidentiality agreements with other companies or employees.

The Case for Professional Translation

While a lot more costly than “free” machine translation, professional translation agencies such as Gateway Globalization regularly translate sensitive and confidential information. They have processes and technology in place –from firewalls and closed, in-house translation management systems to legal agreements with translators and employees to protect the confidentiality of your information and the privacy of people involved.

So why take the risk of “free”?  Free could turn out to be very costly!




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