Translators have an ethical duty to protect the confidentiality of their clients’ data. The nature of translation means that those undertaking the work are often provided with sensitive and confidential materials, such as legal letters or patent information, or personal data, such as birth certificates. It is therefore essential that translators take measures to ensure client confidentiality.
Data protection is extremely important. In the UK, nearly 2,000 workers are suing a leading supermarket chain after their personal details were leaked online and sent to a number of newspapers. While this is an extreme example of data protection gone wrong, it paints a very clear picture about the value of ensuring your client’s information is kept confidential.
Protect your computer
You can take several simple steps to protect your client’s data, starting with your computer. Whether you use a desktop or a laptop, a Windows machine or a Mac, you should ensure that your hard drive is encrypted. This means that if someone steals your computer, you have done everything possible to prevent the data on it from being accessed.
Remember to encrypt any backup drives and memory sticks that you use as well – it’s fairly pointless spending time and money encrypting your computer if you keep a copy of the data on an unencrypted backup drive!
Ensure that you have reputable and up-to-date firewall and anti-virus protection on your computer as well. Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and viruses can be quietly harvesting information on your machine for weeks if left undetected.
Remember to password-protect your computer and any backup drives or memory sticks as well and never write down your password.
Always check your email destination
We’ve all felt that sinking feeling when we realise that they email we have just sent had the wrong person in the “To” field. If you haven’t done this at least once then you are in the minority. For personal emails it can be mildly embarrassing but for client emails with attachments it can be much more serious, so always double-check to whom the email is addressed before you click “Send.”
Think about including an email footer on every message as well, just in case. Examples are available online, such as this one from emaildisclaimers.com:
“This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager. This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.”
Think about the hard copies
It’s not just electronic information that needs careful attention. Disposing of hard copies also needs to be done in a way that protects your client’s confidentiality. Be sure to invest in a shredder if you regularly print client documents, so that they can be destroyed to a satisfactory level once you are finished with them. Many modern shredders will also shred CDs, so are a great option if your clients tend to provide you with data on discs.
Ensuring client confidentiality is essential. Have you taken sufficient steps? What other measures have you put in place to protect your clients’ data? Share your top tips via the comments.