Confidentiality and Google Translate: not the perfect pair!

Merger Agreement

by Effie Salourou, Customer Operations Manager at Commit

Let me tell you a story that happened a few months back. One of our clients, a major law firm sent us a super confidential merger agreement in English regarding a merger/acquisition of one of their clients. Over the phone, our client couldn’t stress enough the confidential and secretive nature of this agreement and the fact that it should be treated with discretion and utmost caution. He pointed out that this shouldn’t leak to the press before the official press release and that a failure to properly protect that information could lead to many legal issues.

After making sure that we had a properly signed NDA with the client into place, he asked whether we have signed NDA agreements with our vendors and linguists, which we did. The client, being a lawyer himself, wanted to have every legal aspect covered (or so he thought!).

Then, having made sure that their file will be treated by our company with the level of confidentiality that he demanded, he dropped THE BOMB.

We were having a discussion regarding the parts of the document that they wanted translated (since the agreement was over 300 pages and they wouldn’t need all of them translated) and then he mentioned that in order to get a rough idea of some legal clauses, he uploaded the file to Google Translate.

Yes, you heard right. Google Translate!

After being so cautious with everything else, he uploaded the confidential agreement to the INTERNET.

Many people around the world use Google Translate daily but very few of them are aware of the Google Terms of Service mentioned below:

“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”

While the specific agreement will probably not (or should not at least!) become public, he has clearly disclosed and stored his customer’s confidential content to a server under the control of a third party, and therefore clearly breaching his own privacy commitments.

After mentioning this story to friends and family, we came to the conclusion that our client wasn’t the only one that was unaware of the consequences that could follow the use of this online service and this is why we decided to share this story. As for our client, we suggested (and are exploring) alternative, privately owned machine translation software options, as we don’t believe he will ever use public software like Google Translate for his work, ever again. After knowing all the facts, would you trust your work on Google Translate?