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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Self-Destructing emails: the new Gmail feature

Por Rory

Many of the emails we send have an expiration date: invitations to events, meetings, reports, budgets ... almost everything is subject to a specific deadline. Sometimes, they include confidential information, such as important documents, passports or boarding passes. And in most cases they leave the input trays completely saturated. But there is one option that may be the solution: to make the messages self-destruct.

Google has just launched a new feature in Gmail - its email platform, used by 1.4 billion people every day - which it has called "Confidential Mode" and with which you can make the messages you send be deleted automatically when the recipient reads them. The system will also make it possible to prevent recipients from being able to forward, copy, download or print the materials included in the correspondence. The self-destruct tool works with a link to a page where you can see the sensitive content, instead of including the material in the original message.

To activate it, you must select a lock icon with a clock, to the right of the send button. Within that tab there are two options: protect the email with a password and define an expiration date (intervals range from one day to five years). The email will disappear in the recipient's inbox, but not in our sent items folder. Whoever receives the message will see the mail normally, but a notice will indicate the expiration date. After that date, the message will disappear immediately.

Anti-copy features cannot prevent some users from duplicating messages through screenshots or photographs but will minimize the risk of accidentally sending confidential data to the wrong person and exposing them unnecessarily. The tool comes at a time when data privacy laws are getting tougher, especially in Europe, where the new General Regulation of Data Protection (GDPR) will be launched on May 25. The regulations will require organizations to notify the authorities of data breaches within a 72-hour time frame. Otherwise, they will be fined for non-compliance. "All this will allow Gmail to remain viable for business users and help demonstrate that they comply with the GDPR," tech consultant Chris Green, founder of the global company Lewis, told the BBC.

"The timing is not a coincidence," says Green. These features are part of a large-scale design change that will include the option to mute some emails, offer faster access to some applications, or send quick replies. According to Green, Google has launched this strategy to add more business to its platform. This feature "had been waiting for some time, but it's not unique," tech consultant Chris Green told the BBC.

"Other platforms, such as Microsoft Exchange, allow you to use add-ons to do something similar." One of the alternative options to "Confidential Mode" is Criptext, an extension that works with Gmail and Outlook, and in Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers, which allows you to set "an expiration time" manually or pre-set. Another alternative platform is 10 Minute Mail, which serves to create "disposable emails". In any case, Green says that the new Gmail tool is a change because, "until now, no email service in the cloud had offered these data protection functions."