Translation agency playing fast and loose with personal information

Translation agencies often circulate their job offerings via e-mail distribution lists, and I subscribe to a few such lists. They can often be somewhat depressing missives to read, as ridiculously low prices are offered, or incredibly tight deadlines are specified. I nearly fell off my chair once, when a translation agency was looking for someone to translate a 2,500-word document within 3 hours at USD 0.03 per source word. I really do not think anyone in their right mind would or should take this up, and I simply refuse to believe that anyone could translate a document to a good standard in such a short space of time and for that price.

Such bad conditions are not uncommon, but one posting recently circulated by e-mail really surprised me. It was a 2-page translation from Japanese into English to be turned around within 6 hours at USD 0.06 per Japanese character in the source text. It is well below my rate and I was not ever going to take it, but the agency had included a link to the document to be translated in the e-mail, so I opened it, out of curiosity to see what it was, and I was left completely aghast. It was an official document, but deeply personal in nature. It was a kind of document that I as a translator would only expect to see after taking on the job, or at least have made an inquiry about the job, rather than see it via a link in an e-mail on a circulation list. There was no password required to view the document, and it was uploaded to a third-party site. If I were the client and came to know this, I would be absolutely livid, since it is not the kind of information that I would like to be shown to anyone and everyone. When contacted in this way, there is at least an implicit and in many cases an explicit understanding that any materials are subject to confidentiality, but in my opinion this agency was being extremely cavalier with personal information.

Trust is important in any business relationship, and I am very wary of agencies that seem to exhibit unprofessional or unethical conduct and behaviour. Potentially exposing personal data to any number of people as this agency had done is reckless, and such action does not inspire confidence. I certainly would not be in a hurry to make a bid for jobs posted by this particular agency, and I am thankful that the agencies I work with are professional and careful.