Is Speech to Text Software More Secure Than Human Transcription Services?

Speech to text software more secure than human transcription

The driving force behind your choice of human-based and software-led transcription services usually revolves around outcome and cost. However, the security and confidentiality of your data should also be high up on your list of considerations. 

You want a secure transcription service. The thought of handing over your sensitive material to a stranger makes you feel understandably nervous. An obvious conclusion is to cut the human out of the loop and use a machine instead.

No human, no risk — right?

If only it were that simple!

Although using ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) software services can alleviate some security concerns, unfortunately, it is far from a guaranteed secure transcription service. Almost every security-based concern and question you should have about using human-based transcription services apply to speech-to-text software solutions as well.

This is your guide to getting a transcription service that meets your security requirements — allowing you to rest easy when it comes to the security of your data and that of your clients.

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How Can I Ensure A Transcription Service Will Protect My Data?

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use a human transcription service or a software-led solution, there are some basics that you should look out for that indicate a service takes protecting your data seriously.

In summary, check that the vendor has the following: ISO accreditations, data encryption systems, NDAs enforcement policies and that they follow GDPR.

This last point is important if you, yourself, are subject to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance. But, even if you are not, it delivers assurances of global best practices when it comes to data protection that are only a bonus to your security.

  • ISO Accreditations: ISO accreditations are a set of international standardised accreditations for businesses across a range of industries. Check that the vendor you plan to use has both ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 certification. ISO 27001 accreditation demonstrates that they have shown proficiency in managing information security and ISO 9001 that they have good management system standards in general. ISO accreditation means that a company has attained a benchmark standard for professionalism and therefore follows data security procedures diligently. They’ve been given a third-party stamp of approval.
  • Data Encryption: Companies that have attained ISO 27001 are likely to use encrypted data transfer and storage for all your recordings. On the most basic level, your transcription service provider should have an HTTPS URL, not an older HTTP one – look for the reassuring padlock in the address bar and the ‘connection is secure’ message. You should also look for the use of TLS (Transport Layer Security) or SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypted login portals and storage policies. These protocols protect the transfer and storage of your data. This is a critical technical component to a secure environment that you should investigate separately. 
  • NDAs: An NDA, or non-disclosure agreement, is a legal document which prevents companies from discussing the contents of your recordings with any third party. You want a transcription service provider that will sign an NDA with you, and who advertises their internal confidentiality policies.
  • GDPR: GDPR is a set of rules that all companies in Europe must follow by law. GDPR relates to the use of personal information, including your recording data. Trustworthy companies will report how they comply with GDPR to protect any information you send them.

Automated Speech-To-Text Services Aren’t Human Free

Although you might think that automated transcription services would be, well, automated, that isn’t necessarily the case. In principle, automated transcription services can keep humans entirely out of the loop, but in practice, that isn’t always what occurs.

Humans can have access to your data for a variety of legitimate reasons including quality control, customer support and product development. 

The companies that develop speech-to-text software need to test how it is performing under a wide range of circumstances. Depending on their terms they may use customer recording already in their system to carry out these tests. 

Employees of vendors, therefore, may have access to your recordings for legitimate product development purposes and end up listening to them in order to improve their algorithms and create a better product. Sometimes these services even outsource this task to human-transcription companies to get a human-generated transcript in order to compare it to their ASR output.

If you are worried about the security of your data, you need to look for guarantees regarding how your data will be treated both before and after it is transcribed. Look for guarantees that your data will not be shared, that no human will look at your data or confidentiality guarantees if they do — more on that later.

Always Research Your Transcription Service Of Choice

Although many companies have systems in place which you can check for such as making sure that the transcription service has the required accreditation, that they use data encryption and that they are willing to sign an NDA. There are also some further aspects you can research when the safety of your data is a priority:

Avoid Offshore Transcribers

This is mostly applicable to human transcription services. But, it is worth thinking about who is transcribing your data and where it is being sent. Some transcription services engage in offshore transcribers. This allows these companies to charge less but diminishes their control over how your data is accessed and used.

The use of an offshore workforce also makes it harder for you to pursue NDA violations by pulling in multiple legal jurisdictions. Plus, internationally transmitting information to overseas workers increases the risk of interception by malicious entities. 

Fundamentally, for your most secure data, look to engage with companies based in countries with a robust judicial system that keep their transcribers in-house and local. What’s more, UK-based transcribers, like all companies in the UK, must obey GDPR rules on customer privacy and data security.

Ask About Their Practices For Keeping Your Data Safe

Ask the transcription service how they keep your data safe while transcribing. All transcription services, whether software-or human-based, should have a policy they can point to which sets out exactly how they maintain data security. This will likely cover all of the things that have been addressed in this article. If they are taking protecting your data seriously, they should be able to produce the relevant documentation so you know their policies and processes. 

If software-led services aren’t any more secure, why do people use them? The answer to that is simple: they are cheaper than human-based transcription services. Some ASR services are free, and those that do take security seriously rarely rise above £0.10 per minute of audio. Human transcription services, on the other hand, start around £1 per minute, and often cost in excess of £2.

What people don’t often realise, however, is that what these two services deliver is quite different. To find out which one will deliver the outcome that you need, check out our guide to human transcription services vs. automatic speech recognition (ASR).


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Take Note

Take Note is a UK-based transcription service with world-class customer support alongside the highest standards of security and ethics. We deliver a comprehensive range of transcription services including Audio and Video Transcription, Video Captions and On-Site Note Taking.