Will Transcription Companies Sign an NDA?

1920x1038 take note blog post image dimensions (1)

Are Transcription Services Secure?

Good news. Most transcription services will sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). In fact, a lot advertise their willingness to do so right on their websites, along with the confidentiality agreements that they have their transcriptionists sign by default. Even if it isn’t mentioned, most transcription companies will be willing to sign an NDA if you call up and ask.

If, however, even after you call, a company refuses to sign an NDA, you should certainly take that as a red flag. It won’t be that hard to find another service provider willing to make those guarantees. 

The not so good news. If you want an audio or video transcription service to sign an NDA, it’s likely that you’re having some relatively sensitive material transcribed. The truth is that finding a truly secure transcription service experience goes beyond an NDA. 

You need to make sure that the transcription company has processes in place to actually enforce internal confidentiality agreements and keep your data secure from outside threats. Here we’re going to focus on NDAs, but you can gain more information by reading our blog on the 8 signposts of safety.

Audio Transcription Quote CTA

Get an instant quote for transcription services

NDAs and Offshore Transcriptions

Like many industries, the connectivity of the modern world has led many transcription services to offshore their workforces to take advantage of cheaper hourly rates in the developing world. This allows them to increase their profit margins and lower their user rates. There are moral considerations here, but, from a strictly security standpoint, this creates risks.

The reality is that having your workforce overseas makes it harder to enforce confidentiality policies and pursue violations, factors that increase the likelihood that such violations occur. There are issues with jurisdiction, distance and simply the potential anonymity of employees that have little to no contact with management. Not every country has the same privacy laws, or even a functioning judicial system. 

There are also large differences between companies in terms of their processes which have an impact on the security of your data. Some companies will make your content accessible to 1000’s of transcribers across the globe, rather than restricting access to only those that require it to carry out the work, which adds another level of risk. You may also want to check how the transcribers access and work on the transcript. Even if you are given a secure portal to upload your content, you need to be sure the same is true for the transcribers. Some suppliers have less stringent protocols and will allow transcribers to download your content as a local file. This means the security of your data is down to the levels the individual transcriber has in place.

If your transcription service provider uses an offshore workforce, you will be able to get cheaper rates, but it will come at a cost in terms of data security, as well as your peace of mind.

Transcription companies that keep their workforce local often advertise this fact because they know it appeals to security-conscious customers. Those that offshore workers probably won’t publicise this information. You should always look into the details if it’s unclear, so you can make an informed decision.

You should also consider the implications of all offshore countries, not just those that may traditionally spring to mind. For example, transferring personal data to the US has become much more complicated and the burden is usually on you, as the data controller, to assess and be confident that the correct levels of protection are in place and that those rights are enforceable.

Signing an NDA When Using Automatic Speech Recognition Software (ASR)

Users of speech to text software sometimes don’t consider security an issue at all. If there is no human involved in the transcription process, why sign an NDA? The reality is that almost everything discussed so far applies to providers of automatic speech recognition (ASR) just as much as human transcription services.

Encrypted storage and data transfers should be your main priority. This is pretty standard with paid ASR services, but can be lacking in the free versions, and is not something you should take for granted if you are concerned about confidentiality. 

You also need to look into whether or not ‘automated’ actually means no ‘person’ has access to your data or will look at it. Although a person won’t be transcribing your audio file, it doesn’t mean that it won’t end up being listened to for review purposes. This could be for quality control, customer support or for product development purposes. You should check you know how long your data might be stored for and ensure this doesn’t contravene any agreements you have in place.

If no guarantees are made about who will look at your data, you should definitely consider getting an NDA signed. Fundamentally, when using automated transcription services, you shouldn’t take security for granted. You are still placing your data in the hands of another company and need to take precautionary steps to make sure it stays safe.

Summary: Most Transcription Services Will Sign an NDA, But Your Scrutiny Shouldn’t Stop There

Most transcription service providers will sign an NDA. But, if they won’t, you probably shouldn’t do business with them, even if you aren’t particularly concerned about security. It’s a bit of a warning sign. 

The reality, however, is that an NDA is just one element of finding a secure transcription partner and keeping your data safe, even when it comes to automated transcription services.

It’s great to know that your transcription partner has an internal team bound by confidentiality agreements and the company is sworn to secrecy. But, you should check if the company is using offshore transcribers and therefore if an NDA will be enforced. Also if the company loses your data or suffers a security breach, unfortunately, that piece of paper will do you little good. The hackers who stole your data didn’t sign an NDA, and they likely wouldn’t care if they had.

You need to be on the lookout for encrypted storage, ISO certifications and a security-conscious attitude. Together all these elements will give you the peace of mind that your data and that of your clients is in safe hands.

Disclaimer – This blog aims to provide you with some basic information regarding NDAs when using transcription services. It is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Please seek professional advice where required.


Posted in ,

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.