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Collaborator trying to leak their contact details to your end client: What would you do?
Thread poster: Maciek Drobka

Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Oct 26, 2009

Dzień dobry!

I delivered a large translation project to an end client last Friday.

It was the single largest translation project I have done in my 14-year long career. I outsourced work to two other translators, and also had a proofreader on the team.

Minutes before sending the files back to the client last Friday, I hovered my mouse over a project file in Windows Explorer, and to my horror, a box displayed containing the words 'Polish translation:', followed by my primary translator's full contact details.

Thank God I discovered the translator's comments, and was able to remove them before returning the files, but I can't tell you how disappointed I felt. I would never do any such thing when doing outsourced work for another translator. But as my mother told me when I had my favourite pencil box stolen in secondary school after I had left my schoolbag lying unattended at a classroom door and gone to the loo, 'that you wouldn't steal in a situation like that doesn't mean others won't'. I suppose my project management inexperience came out all too clear (as will be confirmed by another forum topic soon).

Before the project, I asked my team members to confirm that they would keep the project confidential, and they confirmed. However, I only mentioned that briefly in an e-mail or a Skype chat; I only wanted a peace of mind, which I got. Plus it never occurred to me (inexperience again!) that either of my translators would want to leak information about themselves to my client rather than about the project to the outside world.

I am writing this partly to share the story, partly to vent my emotions (which, as you may expect, are already subdued after a relaxing weekend). I also decided that I would pay the would-be discloser their full earned amount, so I am not asking for advice on whether I should slash a portion of their fee.

However, I would be grateful for some reflections/observations, especially from those of you who are not large-scale outsourcers. Has anything like the above ever happened to you as an outsourcer? Do you have your collaborators sign an NDA before each project, irrespective of the size? Any other related thoughts will be most appreciated.

Maciek


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 09:38
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Several points to consider Oct 26, 2009

'File author' information may become attached to MS Office files (Word, Excel, etc) automatically. Are you sure this person did it on purpose?

On the whole, it's your own responsibility to make sure that deliverables are free of personally identifiable information, including that of your collaborators.

And while we're on the topic of outsourcing, did you get your customer's prior approval to manage this project, before you hired any subcontractors?

P.S. Another thought just occurred to me. If a collaborator asked me to keep a project confidential, especially in a fleeting discussion or chat, I would make a mental note not to disclose this project to anyone, either in writing or in oral conversation. I would not immediately understand that as a request to clean all files of my personally identifiable information. Some people are not even aware of this issue. What I'm trying to say is, you could be seeing malice where there's only negligence (if any fault at all).

[Edited at 2009-10-26 11:04 GMT]


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The Misha
Local time: 01:38
Russian to English
+ ...
This is absolutely outrageous Oct 26, 2009

Get rid of this person and make sure he or she knows why you did it. Also, make sure you let others know what happened. Don't be so coy about it.

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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Oct 26, 2009

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

'File author' information may become attached to MS Office files (Word, Excel, etc) automatically. Are you sure this person did it on purpose?


And while we're on the topic of outsourcing, did you get your customer's prior approval to manage this project, before you hired any subcontractors?

[/quote]

Yes, the collaborator had manually inserted their information in the file. I found out because the first few files said 'English translation:' (which doesn't make sense with an English into Polish project), and later files said 'Polish translation:'.

And yes, the client allowed me to manage the project the way I liked.

Regards,
Maciek


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Paulo Eduardo - Pro Knowledge  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:38
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I agree with Maciek. Oct 26, 2009

You should ALWAYS verify the alterations on word revision accept/reject all, which will erase all writer data...
Have you faced your collaborator? His voice tone or better, his eyes will tell you the truth.
A non-disclosure agreement is mandatory at all times!

Best of luck next time!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I see no problem here Oct 26, 2009

Maciek Drobka wrote:
Before the project, I asked my team members to confirm that they would keep the project confidential, and they confirmed.


The confidentiality of the project will not be in jeopardy simply because the identity of an individual translator becomes known to the end-client, surely. Why do you regard it as a breach of confidentiality if your translator makes his identity known? After all, keeping a project confidential does not mean surrendering one's normal or moral rights, such as the right to be identified as the author of the translation.

I think it is the project manager's responsibility to ensure that the files are delivered without any personal details in it, but I often discover the identities of other people working on projects because of meta information that is automatically inserted.

Yes, the collaborator had manually inserted their information in the file. I found out because the first few files said 'English translation:' (which doesn't make sense with an English into Polish project), and later files said 'Polish translation:'.


This is not sufficient proof, not even for yourself. You have to confront the translator. Even if he did it deliberately, it doesn't mean he knows that you would object.

The fact that two sets of files had different meta text is no proof that it was inserted manually. He could have changed his details in MS Word in mid-project, or he could have based half of the files on a freshly created normal.dot template, or he his workflow could include copy/pasting content from one file to another.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 09:38
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Insufficient proof Oct 26, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:
This is not sufficient proof, not even for yourself.


Precisely. I don't see this as malice. Moreover, none of Maciek's instructions specifically asked to make sure that no personal information was present in the delivered files.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:38
Member
Italian to English
I agree with Maciek Oct 26, 2009

But why would a translator insert their own contact details in a file to an end client, if not to bypass the project manager? Perhaps I am too "dutiful", but to me there are various moral, ethical and common sense rules which should always be respected in working relationship, which include not contacting the end client unless specifically authorised to do so, and not inserting any additional information in a file which is not directly pertinent to the translation itself.

I would ask the collaborator for an explanation, but would probably be hesitant to work with such a person again.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 08:38
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Translator is identified in TM Oct 26, 2009

Normally nowadays projects are delivered together with the TM, and usually the author of the segments is saved automatically. I often get updates and when I look at the TM I can see the prior translator ID.
This is no big deal, I would forget about it. If you trust your client that they will not circumvent you the next time you should trust your translators too.
I notice every Word-file I issue has my name assigned to it automatically. I wonder if this is a breach of confidence too according to you?

Regards
Heinrich


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Collaborator DID insert their contact details manually Oct 26, 2009

I asked the collaborator today, and I can confirm: their contact details were in fact inserted manually, not automatically by MS Word.

The translator replied they always do that because (1) they are ultimately responsible for the quality of their work and related consequences, and (2) they do not want their translations confused with other people's lower quality work.

Neither of which was justified in this particular case in my opinion.

M


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Mikhail Oct 26, 2009

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

Moreover, none of Maciek's instructions specifically asked to make sure that no personal information was present in the delivered files.


That is 100% true. I must be more careful in the future.

Maciek


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Heinrich Oct 26, 2009

Heinrich Pesch wrote:


I notice every Word-file I issue has my name assigned to it automatically. I wonder if this is a breach of confidence too according to you?

Regards
Heinrich [/quote]

No, it's not. I meant manual insertions, not automatic Word additions.

M


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:38
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Inconvenience, maybe... Oct 26, 2009

I also fail to see how this action may be seen as inappropriate... Signing your work is not a crime, is it?

Also, I find the accusation of "leaking" rather absurd... How a translator could assume that the PM would not look through the files at all? I believe that PM's duties exceed being a "contact box", don't they?

Edit: I have not read clearly enough - only now I see that the information was entered into the "meta" fields of the files. That, of course, makes the situation somewhat different...

[Edited at 2009-10-26 15:39 GMT]


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Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 07:38
English to Czech
+ ...
Assume good faith Oct 26, 2009

Maciek,

Was it the translator who was consistently late, or the other one? I suppose it was the latter, otherwise you wouldn't write this post.

If everything else was all right with them, I would probably assume good faith on their side and keep working with them, because a good translator is hard to find. But I would also tell them they are not supposed to put their name in the translation files and I would double check the files next time. I would also send them an NDA.

If it was the person who was often late, well, you don't need him/her anyway.

Hynek


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Hynek Oct 26, 2009

Hynek Palatin wrote:

Was it the translator who was consistently late, or the other one? I suppose it was the latter, otherwise you wouldn't write this post.

/quote]

Unfortunately, both things were combined in a single person.

Maciek


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