Lawyers Beware:
Don’t Let Client Confidentiality
Get Lost in Translation

How Legal Translation Services by Human Translators Preserve Your Client Confidentiality

In the age of eDiscovery and the ever-increasing need for the legal translation of foreign documents in pending litigation, many lawyers have turned to free online translation tools as a quick, no cost measure. Indeed, such free web-based online translations, as well as machine translations, can be a starting point for solo practitioners and small firms when confronted with voluminous and complex foreign language documents during eDiscovery.

But unless one takes time to read the complete terms of service connected with these free online translation tools, lawyers might be quite surprised to learn what they are actually agreeing to in exchange for no-cost translation, especially in regards to their client’s confidentiality.

Google Translate, for example, is a free online translation service that instantly translates text into dozens of foreign languages.  According to its terms of service as of February 22, 2016, “Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

However, its terms of service goes on to state that “[w]hen 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.”

Of course, Google Translate’s terms of service does not mean that it necessarily will use content that has been submitted or uploaded to its service in any of the ways described therein, only that it can. This, of course, begs two questions for lawyers to consider:

1) do lawyers violate their client’s confidentiality by uploading confidential, privileged, or propriety information to translation websites like Google Translate when Google Translate owes no duty to the lawyer’s client to keep such material confidential and in fact advises users that by submitting or uploading information to its website, they are giving Google Translate a worldwide license to publicly disseminate such content, among other things?

2) and could a lawyer who uploads documents received from opposing counsel during discovery that have been marked “confidential” to Google Translate be found to have violated a court’s protective order because of its broad terms of service?

Although there are no clear answers to the above questions, they at least merit thoughtful, if not serious, consideration when evaluating whether to use a free online translation tool to translate confidential multilingual legal documents during the course of discovery.

Of course, the safest (and most accurate) method for translating confidential documents and sensitive documents would be to employ the services of a professional legal translation service such as All Language Alliance, Inc. that utilizes professional human translators certified by the American Translators Association. All Language Alliance, Inc. assures complete confidentiality and will even sign a Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreement. While free online translation tools may be temptingly convenient, in the long run, protecting clients’ confidentiality and trust is paramount.

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