Gmail Confidential Mode: Everything you Need to Know

In gmail, you send an email, and aside from a brief window during which you can unsend, you have no control after that.

gmail’s confidential mode attempts to offer more control over sending emails by enabling expiration dates and making it harder to forward emails.

what is gmail confidential mode?

gmail confidential mode does not use standard email protocols to send the message. instead, the message is hosted on the google server. this means that while gmail can help you protect sensitive email, the downside is that recipients of a sensitive email must click a link to view the message in their browser.

exists to help you protect sensitive information from being shared accidentally or without your consent.

In confidential mode, you do not have the option to forward, copy, print, or download the message or its attachments.

In confidential mode, the sender can:

  • set an expiration date for the message
  • revoke access to the message at any time
  • require a verification code by text message to open messages

That said, there are drawbacks. one is that messages in confidential mode cannot be scheduled.

The other is that it is not infallible. while it prevents messages from being shared accidentally, it does not prevent recipients from taking screenshots and forwarding them, or malware applications from copying or downloading messages and their attachments.

send emails in confidential mode

Confidential mode is relatively new to gmail, so it’s worth checking that you have it enabled.

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To verify that you can access Confidential Mode, open a new message and look for the Confidential Mode icon in the bottom toolbar. if you hover over it, you will see turn confidential mode on/off appear.

step 1. click on the confidential mode icon.

Step 2. Enter details about when you want the email to expire and if you want to request SMS verification from the recipient.

Step 3. Compose your email as you normally would (you will see a badge verifying that you are in confidential mode).

step 4. send the email as usual. If you have enabled the SMS option, you will need to enter a phone number.

step 5. You can access your message in your sent folder, where you can disable any of these options at any time.

now how a recipient opens a confidential email…

receiving emails in confidential mode

There are two types of recipients when you consider using confidential mode: gmail users and non-gmail users.

When a gmail user receives a confidential message, it’s relatively easy:

First, the forward button is disabled and a banner explains that the recipient “will not have the option to forward, copy, print, or download this email.” The email otherwise looks exactly the same as usual.

Secondly, when the email is set to expire, it disappears entirely.

For non-gmail users, it’s more complicated. When they receive a confidential email from a gmail account, it appears as a link that they must click to view the email in a browser.

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Although it works, it’s a bit cumbersome.

a note about securing your email in confidential mode

It’s worth keeping in mind that while Gmail’s Confidential Mode is intended to increase email security, email is never completely secure. messages are sent and received unencrypted and are easily intercepted by hackers. Of course, encrypted email can be configured, but this is not a feature of gmail.

gmail confidential mode: frequently asked questions (faq)

what is the purpose of gmail confidential mode?

is designed to protect the information contained in email so that it cannot be recreated or transmitted to unauthorized recipients.

can someone forward my email if i sent it in confidential mode?

gmail confidential mode is designed to prevent people from forwarding your message. however, please note that recipients can always take screenshots or copy the information by other means.

Do emails sent in confidential mode disappear?

Yes, you can set an expiration date for your email in confidential mode. however, that does not mean that your email has not been copied in some other way before that time.

is gmail confidential mode really secure?

certainly makes it more difficult for someone to pass on the content of your email by disabling forwarding and deleting the email after the expiration date. but you should consider the nature of the email you are sending and assess the risks of that content being leaked, assuming that a bad actor can always divulge the information received.

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in summary

gmail confidential mode is a feature that has been introduced to allow users to gain some control over sensitive messages by preventing emails from being transferred, downloaded or held in inboxes for longer than necessary .

That said, it has its limitations, both from a usability and security point of view.

gmail’s confidential mode meets users halfway. it is clearly more beneficial for gmail users than gmail, from a user experience point of view. but, because it’s not secure, it’s worth saving confidential mode for messages that don’t contain highly sensitive data, like bank details.

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