Translating your text using Google Translate – does it constitute a data leak?

Many students and staff on campus make regular use of free translation machines, such as Google Translate and DeepL. However, if you translate your text using these free tools, does this constitute a data leak? After all, at the touch of a button, you are not only translating your text but sharing its content on the internet too.

Translating using free translation engines

When you translate a text using a free translation tool, your text and the translation are reused to improve the translation engine, meaning sensitive information in the text is forfeit. This is unacceptable when it concerns personnel files, but even short emails can contain confidential information. Not to mention that scientific findings may become public because you waive your rights when you use them. Moreover, as things stand currently, you can almost never use machine translations immediately because they lack quality: translation machines do not and cannot consider context or cultural conventions, so the translations they provide can be inaccurate, unclear or even inappropriate.

Not a ban but awareness and education

Although free translation engines should not be used for privacy and security reasons, it is almost impossible to ban them. As such, Radboud University’s main focus is on raising awareness of their quality and risks, and on providing education on using machine translation engines responsibly. Radboud in’to Languages is taking the helm here.

Secure licence

To ensure that your text does not become freely available online and the content is not used for purposes outside your sphere of influence, you should only translate your texts using a secure licence. Radboud in’to Languages has been working with secure machine translation licences since 2021 (we currently use the DeepL Pro API), and secure machine translations are available upon request.

Machine translation with post-editing

If the quality of the translation is important but there is too little time or budget for a team of human translators, you can also opt for a post-edited machine translation. With these, a professional editor checks the machine translation for accuracy, context, consistency, cultural conventions and (inclusive) language use. Radboud in’to Languages is more than happy to talk to you about what type of service would fit your needs best. You can then rest assured that your text was translated in a secure environment.

Contact information

Organizational unit
Radboud in'to Languages