Security

How to use Confidential Mode in Gmail

Gmail's new Confidential Mode has been rolled out. This how-to walks you through the process of making use of this dealing-making feature.

By now you've certainly heard all about the new Gmail features, and with good reason. A Gmail overhaul has been long overdue. But little did we know that Google would roll out some serious game-changing features to the rather mature email service. One of those features could make some serious noise for businesses and any privacy-centric user. That feature is Confidential Mode. With Confidential Mode, emails can be created and sent with an expiration date. Say, for instance, you want to ensure sensitive data isn't sitting around in an inbox for an indefinite period of time (waiting for prying eyes to spy). With Confidential Mode turned on, you can set a specific expiration date for that email, so it will automatically delete after a specific set deadline.

I want to show you how to use this new, ground-breaking feature with Gmail.

What you'll need

First you'll need to be using the new Gmail. If you're not sure if you're working with the new iteration, open Gmail and click on the gear icon. If you see Try the new Gmail, click it. Gmail will reload and you'll be in the new version.

One little quirk I discovered was that Confidential Mode refused to appear in Firefox, which is my default browser. It wasn't until I opened the new Gmail in Chrome and composed an email that the new feature appeared. If you're using Firefox and you don't see Confidential Mode available, open your account in Chrome, compose an email, and then go back into Firefox to make sure the feature has now been enabled.

How to use Confidential Mode

This is actually quite simple. Open up Gmail and compose a message. At the bottom of the message you'll see a small clock icon (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The Confidential Mode icon is ready.


When you click on that icon, a pop-up will appear where you can configure the settings for this email (Figure B). Confidential Mode is configured on a per-email basis, so you must go through this for each email you want to use with the feature.

Figure B

Figure B

Configuring the Confidential Mode settings for an email.


Set the expiration date for the email (minimum one day, maximum is five years), based on when you want that email to expire. Once you've done that, you then configure the passcode. There are two options:

  • SMS passcode: A passcode necessary to view the email will be sent via text.
  • No SMS passcode: No passcode is necessary to view the email.

Compose your email and click Send. If you've configured Confidential Mode with an SMS passcode, you will then be prompted for a phone number (so the passcode can be sent via text - Figure C). Without that passcode, the recipient cannot view the email. The SMS passcode will only be valid for five minutes.

Figure C

Figure C

The passcode pop-up.


If you go the No SMS passcode option, that email can then be viewed by anyone with access to the recipient's email client. For more security, it's always best to go with the SMS Passcode option. That way the recipient must have their phone handy to read the email which will expire on the date you configured.

And that's all there is to use Confidential Mode in the new Gmail.

A much-needed addition

Confidential Mode is exactly what Gmail needed. With the one-two punch of expiring emails and SMS passcodes, your data will be less likely to wind up under the scrutiny of unwanted, prying eyes. This feature should serve you and your sensitive information well.

Also See

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox