Gmail reportedly testing self-destructing emails: Here’s how ‘confidential mode’ would work

April 16, 2018

News of Google’s Gmail redesign has been making rounds recently, but apparently, there’s another upcoming feature that hasn’t been discussed: self-destructing emails.

The upcoming Gmail redesign promises to bring a “fresh, clean look” for the web version of Gmail, along with several improvements, Material Design elements, and new features.

According to a new report from TechCrunch, a tipster also revealed to the publication that Google is testing a “confidential mode” that would make it easier for users to ensure their emails are only read by the intended person. Moreover, the emails will also have a self-destructing option, which would allow users to set when their email will expire and become unreadable.

So far, ephemeral messages have made waves on various applications such as Snapchat, but having the option for emails would take things to the next level.

TechCrunch received several screenshots from its tipster, illustrating how Gmail’s self-destructing emails would work. Upon selecting to compose a new email, users would get the option to compose it in “confidential mode.”

Enabling this option would automatically set several restrictions to the email in question, limiting what the recipient can do with the information. For instance, the recipient would not be able to download the content, forward the email, print it, or copy-paste it.

Users would also be able to set when they want their email to self-destruct, such as one week, one month, several years, or other such options. For an extra layer of security, senders could also require the email recipient to enter a passcode sent in a text message, to confirm their identity before being able to access the contents of the email.

This should significantly boost the security of Gmail and encourage wider use even at enterprise level with high confidentiality requirements. It seems that the new feature is just in testing for now, however, as the “Learn more” option doesn’t actually lead to a page with more details on this option.

While this whole process might sound a bit complicated, putting the recipient through hoops to access an email, it’s not quite so. The recipient would simply get a link to the confidential content and would have to log in to their Gmail account again to access it.

Although forwarding, copy-pasting, printing, and downloading options were disabled, the recipient—in this case, TechCrunch’s tipster—was still able to take screenshots of the whole thing.

Once the email expires, based on the period set by the sender, the contents would become unreadable and the link would no longer work. Since it requires the recipient to log in to their Gmail account, the feature might not work with other email clients.

The redesigned version of Gmail is expected to become available within a few weeks, but it remains unclear at this point whether self-destructing emails will become available at the same time or later on.

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