Secrecy is as old as the art of translation. This age-old practice transcends the non-disclosure agreements we sign with our clients, the rules of HIPAA and other government regulation. In the course of our work, NDA or no, we learn much about the lives of clients, all their hopes, their dreams, the intimate details of their great fortune and misfortune. Some is public information, and some is top secret, and there is no way to know without asking. But you can’t ask.
So the wisest course is to treat all that we do with the utmost confidentiality. The sole exceptions are that we sometimes disclose the names of our clients to other prospective clients and sometimes discuss specific aspects of our work with other clients to illustrate various workflows or solutions. This business necessity is the only time we discuss our work with our clients. We never discuss the content of our work, under any circumstances.
Note also that we have some clients with whom our relationship is confidential as well, and may not be disclosed under any circumstances to anyone short of court order. Our location across the street from the UN implies to our clients that we can keep secrets in a diplomatic way.
So that puts the pressure on, and invites observation from third parties. We know that in the past the company has been under professional scrutiny. Assume that is still the case.
Since customer satisfaction is our key performance indicator, security concerns must sometimes be sacrificed to client convenience, so email remains the weak link in our security chain, but encryption, transmission by FTP and web portal should be encouraged.
Hardcopy is a no-no. Avoid it if you can, and if you can’t, shred.
Translation memories and glossaries are the property of our clients, end of story.
When something newsworthy comes along, a well-known client, or some juicy story comes to light, the temptation is great, but we must be silent nonetheless. Too bad that the juicier that bit of gossip, the more important it is to be quiet!
Please never discuss the content of what we translate, with anyone, not with your colleagues, not even with the client, unless the client brings it up with you first, or in the event there are questions regarding content that will affect the quality of the translation. Encourage your colleagues to do the same. We have to help each other with this.
In all our communications, clients must be addressed respectfully, even if you are sure they will never see or hear you. Because they will. In email, always write as if the client will see your communication, even when they won’t. Because they will.
By treating everything that we do with the utmost of discretion, we honor an ancient practice and help each other establish the values that will always protect the privacy of our clients and their clients in turn.
One slip up can betray the trust our clients give us. And put us all out of a job, too. Please be careful with our clients’ information!
I wrote this for the latest edition of our project manager’s manual. Let me know what I missed.