How to set emails to be ‘Confidential’ in Gmail

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This ‘How To’ set emails to be ‘Confidential’ follows on from Shared Contacts for Gmail® Blog post on ‘How to schedule emails on Gmail’. As and when Google updates Gmail, Shared Contacts for Gmail® Blog will keep you up-to-date so that you can make the most out of any new features.

Why did Google make this change? 

More and more companies and individuals are using Gmail for work. There is also a greater need for organisations to keep emails (and data generally) secure. Particularly, if the emails may contain the personal information of customers. This is good practice whether or not you are legally required to be GDPR compliant. You can read the Shared Contacts for Gmail® GDPR compliance statement here.

These ‘Confidential’ emails are slightly different from regular emails sent via Gmail. This is because they are hosted (until they are permanently deleted) on Google's servers rather than been sent and stored directly in the recipient's Inbox.

These emails can’t be forwarded, copied and pasted, or even printed. They are also set to expire after a designated amount of time.

At this point, you are probably wondering why we’ve put the word ‘Confidential’ in quotation marks. Whilst it is true nobody can copy/paste, print, or forward the email to someone else. Gmail can’t stop people taking pictures on their phone or using screenshot software to store and share the email

A good rule to follow still is don’t put in an email what you wouldn’t say to someone's face (you don’t want to be one of these people)!

Step 1



Click on the ‘padlock and time’ symbol.

Step 2


The default time before the email is deleted or ‘expires’ is 1-week.


You can either control the exact date - or pick from any of the above options Google has given you.

Step 3



If you choose "No SMS passcode," recipients using the Gmail app will be able to open it directly. Recipients who don't use Gmail will get emailed a passcode.

If you choose "SMS passcode," recipients will get a passcode by text message. Make sure you enter the recipient's phone number, not your own phone number!

You can only add SMS passcodes for phone numbers from these regions:

- North America
- South America
- Europe
- Australia
- Asia: India, Korea and Japan 



So if you are sending to people outside of these regions it is probably best to stick to “No SMS passcode”.

Step 4




At the bottom of the email you are sending, you will see exactly how long the other person
will be able to access the email before Google deletes it from their system.



The bottom of the recipient's email will show them how long they have access to the email.
If they attempt to open it after this date they will not be able to view the email.

NB: After this date to ensure that nobody can access the email. Be absolutely sure to also delete the original email from your sent folder.   

Stuart Baldock

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