Confidentiality, Copyright & Professional Conduct

working with interpreters
Confidentiality, Copyright & Professional Conduct

Confidentiality has been one of the hot topics of late in the interpreting community and many a piece and dissertation have been written about it.

Although I doubt any professional interpreter would go about tapping people’s shoulders and saying ‘guess what?’ before disclosing what they just interpreted, there is a grey area that all professionals should bear in mind.

So, here are four considerations to take into account before sharing anything publicly.

The obvious

As we know, no deserving, self-respecting professional interpreter would intentionally disclose the matters discussed during an assignment.

However, it is advisable to remain vigilant in the ‘down times’ when one is relaxed and chatting casually, as those are the moments when one might inadvertently say more than one should. A passing comment can cause just as much damage as an intentional disclosure.

The unintended

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – so how much could an innocent selfie or pic from the booth unintentionally disclose? Well, a lot.

A photo of the meeting or conference room taken from the booth might show the name/topic of the event, the name of the hosting company or entity, the number and/or name of the participants, the reference/ information/promotional materials given to the attendees (some of which might be confidential), and so on.

That photo could give competitors a plethora of information, starting by simply confirming that a private meeting or event actually took place.

And what about security? In high-profile events or those of a sensitive nature, cameras are strategically positioned to avoid showing certain features of a room – and an interpreter’s innocent photo on social media might end up publicly disclosing them.

The unethical

Another worrying trend is that of interpreters who, in an attempt to build up their CVs, promote clients that are not theirs as their own.

Such is the case when an interpreter says he or she interpreted for a particular client when they were actually hired by an agency or by a colleague acting as a consultant interpreter.

Claiming to have done so, even in the most ambiguous language possible, is a misrepresentation of facts, is against the Code of Ethics of most professional associations, and is, most likely, a breach of contract with regard to the agency or colleague that hired the interpreter in the first place.

The illegal

Nowadays, more and more interpreters have professional websites, some of which feature beautifully displayed logos in their ‘Clients’ section. The same caveat described above applies, plus the legal requirement of needing permission to use the logos in question.

Logos are part of a company’s intellectual property and, as such, are protected by copyright law. Unless you have express permission to do so from your client, featuring them on your website is, well, illegal.

When navigating the grey areas of confidentiality, ethics, and copyright, I always ask myself the following questions:

1- Is it mine to tell?

I treat any news about a client or assignment as I would any news about a friend. If I have permission to share it, fine. If not, I zip it.

2- What for?

Posting and sharing online just for the sake of it is a waste of time and resources. Make sure whatever you share serves a purpose and contributes to your key messages.

If you are uncertain about what is OK to share and what is not, you can check the ITI Code of Ethics here. The British Library Business & IP Centre also offers free copyright workshops here.

Let’s keep our profession professional!

** Article originally published in the November 2019 ITI LRG Newsletter under A View From the Booth.

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