Send a confidential email in Gmail

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Looking for a more secure way to send emails within Gmail? Google’s “Confidential Mode” is designed to ensure that only the intended recipient can see your message.

What is Gmail confidential mode?

When you use confidential mode while sending a message in Gmail, the intended recipient must enter a code to read your email.

After you send your message, the recipient will receive an email stating that they have a confidential message waiting for them. To read it, they must verify their identity with a code sent either via email (to the same account) or via SMS (to a number of their choice) before they can read it.

None of the content of the message is included in the email received. Instead, the message only exists on Google’s servers. In addition to the verification process, messages sent via confidential mode also expire. You can choose an expiration date of one week, one month, three months or five years.

Send confidential emails in Gmail

To use confidential mode, log in to gmail and click the compose button in the top left corner to write a new email. Add a recipient, a subject line, and your message body, then click “Confidential Mode” at the bottom of the compose window (it looks like a padlock with a clock on it.).

In the window that appears, set your expiration period and choose whether or not you need an access code by SMS. If you choose ‘No SMS access code’, the code will instead be delivered to the same email address you entered in the ‘To’ field.

Hit “Save” and check your message before hitting Send. If you’ve opted for SMS passcode verification, you’ll need to enter the recipient’s mobile number before your message is sent. Be careful not to enter the wrong number!

Revoke access to a message you’ve sent

If you want, you can revoke access to a message you’ve already sent. Once you send an email in confidential mode, the message will appear in your inbox (you can also find it under Sent).

To unsend a confidential email, click the message first, then click “Remove Access.” If the recipient hasn’t read the email yet, they won’t be able to access it after the access is removed.

The Downsides of Gmail’s Approach

If you don’t request SMS passcode verification, confidential mode is a lot less secure. For example, if the email address you’re sending your message to has already been hacked—say, if the owner made it log into a public computer—the verification code is pretty much useless.

On the other hand, providing a separate mobile number and requiring SMS verification is similar to how two-factor authentication works. Even if the email address is compromised, without access to the mobile number provided by the sender, the message will not be accessible.

Unfortunately, Gmail’s approach is still a long way from that of truly secure email providers like ProtonMail and Tutan Note. Like most email providers, Gmail does not encrypt the contents of your inbox on the server. Google employees, or anyone who has access to your Google account, can see the message from a technical point of view.

RELATED: ProtonMail vs. Tutanota: Which is the Best Secure Email Provider?

Get better privacy with a secure email provider

If privacy is important to you, even if you only send one message, secure email providers are a better choice than Gmail or other webmail services like Outlook.

Learn how to send secure emails with a free ProtonMail account.

RELATED: How to Use ProtonMail to Send Secure, Encrypted Emails

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