The Salt Lake Tribune’s Everyday Ethics section asks: Was dad right to translate diary?
My father, a translator, was hired by a man who suspected that his wife was unfaithful and married him only to get a green card. He had my father translate photocopied pages from her diary. Family members think this was unethical. My father maintains he simply did his job. You? (Incidentally, the diary confirmed the devastated man’s suspicions, and he is initiating divorce proceedings.)
The answer given is that the translator should have declined the job on moral grounds, instead of violating the privacy of the diarist. This is seen as parallel to the rule in the code of ethics of the American Translators Association that a translator should ‘refuse any assignment he believes to be intended for illegal or dishonest purposes, or against the public interest’ – this isn’t quite the same thing – translation may be legal, but not ethical.
One thing that strikes me is that the translator shouldn’t have been discussing his work with his family anyway.