Why should businesses translate their user agreements?

September 13, 2023
Why should businesses translate their user agreements?

The terms "Terms and Conditions" and "Privacy Policies" refer to two distinct types of legal agreements commonly used by businesses, especially those operating online platforms. Terms and Conditions (also referred to as "Terms of Service" or "Terms of Use") is a comprehensive legal agreement that sets forth the rules and guidelines users must follow when using a service or product. Privacy Policies, on the other hand, is a legal document that explains how a business collects, handles, and processes user data. 

While both these documents work hand-in-hand to foster a positive relationship between a service provider and a consumer, their main difference (practically speaking) is that Privacy Policies are mandated by regulating authorities across the world. Conversely, Terms and Conditions are not, but it is in the best interest of any business to have one still as a means to protect their rights.

Legal concepts, terminology, and cultural norms can vary greatly across countries and cultures. As such, having a platform/product/service available to multilingual markets further complicates the responsibilities of any business. In this article, we will take a look at why these legal documents may be in need of professional legal translations.

Privacy Policies Based on Locale-Specific Needs

The internet has allowed products and services to bypass physical borders, pushing commerce beyond traditional means. Having developed at a rapid rate, authorities eventually found themselves catching-up with the internet. Digital business evolution introduced novel revenue strategies. These models often banked on user data for tailored potent approaches. As online sharing and storage of personal details escalated, so did apprehensions about data security. Governments had to protect their constituents from breaches and potential misuse.

Provided below are three countries that are at the forefront of this matter. Let’s study how their positions are affected by locale-specific needs and how they account for various language needs within their jurisdictions.

United Kingdom

The UK has two notable policies regarding the matter, GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. Even after leaving the EU, the UK retained much of the GDPR's framework (enacting the UK GDPR). Data Protection Act 2018 works in conjunction with the UK GDPR and governs the processing of personal data in the jurisdiction. Under this policy, information provided to data subjects must be "in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language."

While it doesn't explicitly require translation, if you're targeting consumers in an EU country, the privacy policy should be accessible in the language those consumers understand, which in most cases would be their native language.


The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is the primary data protection law of Canada at the federal level. While it predates the GDPR, some provinces (like Quebec, for example) have introduced reforms to align more closely with GDPR-like standards. The PIPEDA requires organizations to communicate information policies in a manner that the individual can understand

Given Canada's bilingual nature (English and French), this could mean providing privacy policies in both languages, especially for services targeting the entire Canadian population.

California, USA

Why was this state chosen? California is notably one of the few US-states that has unique and diverse language needs. Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the succeeding California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) is noteworthy and has been compared to the GDPR in terms of some of its consumer protections. Other U.S. states are noticeably following in California’s footsteps.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) doesn't explicitly require translations. However, for businesses operating in areas with a significant number of non-English speakers, like Spanish speakers, it's a best practice to offer translated privacy policies to ensure clarity and understanding.

Repercussions of Inaccessible Privacy Agreements

Translating legal documents helps consumers understand their rights – ensuring consumer protection despite language barriers. Providing accurate translations is a crucial means to prevent legal liabilities. Here are some cases that emphasize the importance of properly translated legal policies:

In 2021, Dutch data protection authorities fined TikTok 750,000 euros ($885,000) for violating the privacy of young children, claiming TikTok didn't fully provide its privacy and data protection information in Dutch. Authorities emphasized that TikTok failed to adequately explain its data collection and usage practices in a manner young users could comprehend, deeming it a breach of privacy legislation. 

The probe into TikTok began last year, with the platform boasting 3.5 million users in the Netherlands. While TikTok noted they've had a condensed, user-friendly privacy policy in Dutch since July 2020, it has been embroiled in global controversies. Just last month, Dutch consumer group Consumentenbond lodged a €1.5 billion claim against TikTok for alleged unlawful personal data collection from users.

As per GDPR standards, it is imperative that business policies are available in the language spoken by their consumers. For example, when extending your services or products to French consumers, it's imperative that your privacy policy is made available in French. This only ensures clarity and comprehension for the user, aligning with policies from any given jurisdiction. All countries belonging to the European Union reflect this provision in their own data protection acts.

This further highlights the significance of presenting privacy-related communications in a manner that is clear, transparent, and easily understandable. It is also recommended to keep your privacy policies fit for general consumption, avoid using excessive legal jargon or technical language that could confuse potential users. 

What makes a good policy translation?

Whether or not required by law, providing terms of use along with your privacy policies in the languages of a significant user segment boosts trust and minimizes disputes. For such needs, collaborating with professional legal translators are recommended. So, what makes a good legal translation?

[1] Accuracy and Consistency: It should reflect the exact meaning and intention of the original document. Legal nuances, conditions, and obligations must not be lost or altered in translation. Terms and definitions must be consistently translated. Using different terms for the same concept can introduce confusion.

[2] Cultural Appropriateness and Linguistic Fluency: Legal concepts, terminologies, and cultural norms vary across countries. The translation must be culturally sensitive and in line with the legal conventions of the target audience. Moreover, it should read as if it were originally written in the target language, maintaining the tone and formality of a legal document.

[3] Clarity and Comprehensibility: The translated document should be free of ambiguity. It must be clear and straightforward, considering that legal documents hold particular weight. The translation should be understandable by the general public of the target language.

NOTE: Before making any decisions, it's essential to consult with legal professionals familiar with the jurisdictions in which you operate. They can offer guidance fit for specific local regulations, better protecting your business and employees.


As the internet and online businesses expanded, leading to increased digital interactions, there was a need for clear guidelines to define the relationship between service providers and users. This digital boom introduced new revenue models necessitating transparent disclosures on user data utilization, especially for targeted advertising. Incidents of major companies experiencing data breaches or misusing user data underscored the importance of enhanced data management and transparent user communication.

Do you need help with properly communicating to your stakeholders? Check out our translation services to see how we can help.


By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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