March 31, 2021
Paula Ribeiro

As we can read in many publications, websites and in Portuguese law itself, professional secrecy deals with maintaining the secrecy of confidential information, whose domain of disclosure must be restricted to a client, an organization, or even a given group, when that same information needs to be entrusted, for the most varied reasons, to one or more professionals outside that restricted group.

Nowadays, and due to the increasing importance of professional secrecy, this right is even enshrined in the scope of citizen's rights and not only as a duty of professionals, being protected by the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, by the Convention on Human Rights, by several codes of ethics, in addition, obviously, to the Portuguese Civil and Penal Code.

Thus, professional secrecy is currently both a right and a duty and transcends even the professions that traditionally are required to respect confidential information, due to their profession and/or role – as is the case with physicians, lawyers, solicitors, among others – professionals who have long been represented by a Professional Association.

But – one may ask – what happens to translation and interpreting professionals when in the course of their activities they have access to secret and confidential information? Without a Professional Association, how are the secrecy and confidentiality of the contents that our clients share with us ensured? It is true that many clients ask themselves these questions and even foresee the signing of an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement, in its acronym in English) when they ask us for a quote and even before we are sent any documents to quote. And is this necessary? No! Although ISO itself requires certified translation companies to demand the signing of this NDA from all of their freelance translators, this is an almost unnecessary procedure, I would dare to say, given that the right and duty of professional secrecy transcend professions and also due to the fact that professionals are now increasingly grouped into professional associations with codes of ethics and deontology by which all their members are bound.

This way, any translation and/or interpreting client looking for professionals or companies affiliated to professional associations is protected by the code of ethics and deontology of the association to which that company and/or professional proves to belong. Therefore, it is enough to read the code on the associations’ websites to understand whether professional secrecy is ensured or not and to what extent.

In the association that I founded and of which I am the chairman, APTRAD – Association of Translation and Interpreting Professionals [], for example, item 3 of the Code of Ethics mentions, regarding professional secrecy, that the translator and/or the interpreter must keep professional secrecy of all information and documentation transmitted by the client or that they become aware of under the scope of their mission, except for the exceptions provided for in the Law and/or the client's express authorization.

Therefore, once again, we return to the principle of all the principles that must be the basis of any and all contracts in the area of translation and interpreting – You must hire qualified professionals!

Paula Ribeiro
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