Transcription Services

5 Security Conscious Questions You Should Ask Every Transcription Service in 2019

By Thomas Carter on April, 2 2019
Thomas Carter

While there are many high-quality transcription services currently available, not all services will provide the same level of security to ensure your data is secured.

Being able to get your recordings transcribed easily and quickly is a great time-saver, but have you asked yourself how you know your data is protected and secured? Picking the right partner is essential when it comes to the safety of your data, but what questions should you be asking?

This article will cover 5 security questions you should ask yourself when picking a service. These questions will help you understand the company’s policies and ensure they’re a trustworthy business.

1. Does this transcription service use encryption and have ISO accreditations?

One of the first things to do (and this counts for many web-based services that you might use) is to look at the URL bar. The start should always read “HTTPS”. This is a secure version of the HyperText Transfer Protocol or HTTP for short. The extra S at the end stands for “secure” and means that the data sent between you and the website is encrypted. If the website doesn’t utilise HTTPS, then it fails one of the most basic security checks for an online service and should be avoided.

But, for people with really sensitive data, going above and beyond the basics should be expected. Primarily, this means the use of TLS or SSL encrypted login portals and storage. You should also prioritise working with quality transcription service firms that have ISO accreditations, specifically ISO 27001 and 9001 certificates. These are third-party estimates to the fact that your data will be handled with the correct security measures in order to provide you peace of mind.

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2. Does Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) software actually mean a safer transcription service?

Lots of companies offer cheaper and faster automated transcription services which are done by a machine and not a real person. This means that there is an extra layer of perceived security because if the machine is doing the transcribing, no one will actually hear the audio you want to be protected.

Unfortunately, the files will still be stored by the transcription company during this process, and there is a small chance that an employee may listen to your record as it’s being played and transcribed by the machine — either for nefarious reasons or quality control and test purposes.

Some transcription companies that offer automated transcription services have security policies that guarantee no human will hear the audio you want transcribed, along with delivering encrypted storage protections. But, don’t take this for granted. Every security question you would apply to a human-based transcription service should be levelled at an ASR provider as well.

3. Is this transcription service GDPR compliant?

GDPR requires that businesses subject to its jurisdiction follow a wide range of data handling procedures, along with making you responsible for how partners handle data that you have collected.

Depending on the data and the operation, this includes regular applications of Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs), which are designed to help the business identify and minimise data protection risks. It also involves the appointing of a Data Protection Officer (DPO) in the organisation to ensure that GDPR regulations are being followed by the company.

These are all best practices for ensuring data protection. But, the only way to ensure that your partners are following these rules, without expansive monitoring, is to pick partners who are, themselves, subject to the GDPR. At the very least, that guarantees that if something untoward happens, everyone will be in trouble.

The United Kingdom is the only English-speaking country that is subject to the GDPR. By picking UK based transcription companies, you can remove GDPR concerns from your list.

4. Will this transcription service sign an NDA and enforce it internally? Where is your content being sent and who is gaining access to it?

If you want your data kept secret, you need to get your transcription service to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). But you also need to question their ability to enforce that agreement.

In theory, an NDA means that the company is obligated to not share the file with anyone else and there could be consequences should you discover that the transcription service has breached the NDA. But, like everything in life, things aren’t that simple. Certain factors can make it much harder to guarantee that an NDA is actually meaningful and accurately reflects a company’s internal policies.

The biggest factor here is the use of offshore and freelance transcriptionists. To keep overheads low, a lot of transcription companies use transcribers located in the developing world that are not employed full time. This pulls multiple jurisdictions into any legal proceedings, and the general distance between transcription and management means it is hard to guarantee that all best practice data protection policies are carried through.   

By partnering with transcription services that use in-house transcribers that are local to them, you have a greater guarantee that everything goes as promised.  New call-to-action

5. What are past customers of this transcription service saying?

It’s easy to fake something on the internet. A transcription company could say that they have ISO 27001 and 9001 accreditations, they could mention that they’re compliant with the GDPR and they might even say that your audio files will never be heard by a human if you order their automated transcription services. Unfortunately, there’s always the chance that they’re just saying and doing these things to tick boxes and in reality, they don’t actually care much about your security at all and it’s just an afterthought.

This is where reviews and customer testimonials can help you tell if a company legitimately cares about your security or if they’re just lying to you. Before you sign up for any transcription service or consider paying them to help you transcribe something, you need to look at various testimonials and reviews to ensure that they can be trusted and that they’re willing to go the extra mile to offer you peace of mind when it comes to your security.


You have been learning about how to ensure the security of your data while using transcription services. If you have more questions about transcription service rates, ASR or industry-specific concerns (including medical transcripts, legal transcripts and transcripts for market research firms), we have written the Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services just for you!

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