By Gio Lester ©2017

There was a time when most contracts were sealed with a handshake – with or without spit involved. Life was simpler and mediation by a friend was all that was needed to fix any misunderstandings. Or at least that is what we have been told. That begs the question, what came first misunderstandings or lawyers?

Regardless of the answer, we must pay close attention to the documents that are submitted to us for signature and the commitments we make in the practice of our trade.

A good number of translators and interpreters around the world belong to at least one professional association. Many of those associations offers us professional guidance through code of ethics, and these usually define our obligations to our profession, colleagues and clients. Including confidentiality, the subject of our webinar on August 9.

Portrait of Sue LeschenOur webinar leader was Sue Leschen, a full time freelance French interpreter and translator – and lawyer – based in Manchester, UK, who specializes in the legal and commercial fields. She shared with us language found in the Codes of Conduct of the Chartered Institute of Linguists-CIOL and Institute of Translation and Interpreting-ITI, both UK-based, with regards to confidentiality. Here in the United States we translators follow the guidelines set by the American Translators Association-ATA, which states that its members are: “- to hold in confidence any privileged/confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work.” We were surprised by how thorough and detailed the European codes are. They cover things such as protecting clients’ information, protecting your equipment to prevent leaks or that others take a peek at it while it is unattended, use of confidential information for one’s own gain, etc.

Sue reminded us that we should all:

  1. Look into professional liability insurance – even if only to learn more about it
  2. Clarify what our clients consider confidential/privileged information
  3. Know that our confidentiality commitment does not end with the project: it is in perpetuity, except in very specific situations
  4. Be aware that the bond of confidentiality should extend to those we subcontract
  5. Add a confidentiality disclaimer to your email signature: if they end up in the wrong hands, the individual will know how to proceed and you will have fulfilled your confidentiality obligations toward your client
  6. Get a personal hotspot: public wi-fi’s are not secure
  7. Avoid cloud-based translation services until we are sure our data are kept segregated
  8. Consider biocryptics to protect your devices – handy in case of loss, for example
  9. Educate our clients who insist on the “destruction of all data” related to their project that the task is almost impossible and not on our best interest: how can we defend ourselves in case of a dispute?
  10. Even our retired equipment has data that can be lifted by forensic experts and hackers: only total destruction of the hard disc can ensure the data is irretrievable
  11. Read carefully all contracts and NDA’s, discuss clauses and terms we do not agree with or that make us uncomfortable

The associations we belong to also have responsibilities regarding granting access to our information in their care. Users of the ATA directory now have to accept terms of use and confirm they are human before being granted access to members’ information. And we must be aware of sanctions that may be levied against us should we violate any rules of conduct and/or confidentiality of the associations we belong to.

Sue provided rich and well supported information applicable on both sides of the pond, including data storage, website encryption, identifying and avoiding phishing and malware bearing emails. Please, watch the webinar and feel free to contact ConVTI or Sue Leschen to clarify any questions.

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