How to Go "Off the Record" When Chatting in Gmail

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No matter the medium, as soon as your message has arrived, the recipient can and will do with it as they please. Some media are better at keeping permanent records than others, though. Thanks to plenty of storage and good search, emails received in your Gmail account are splendid records-keepers, and the same is true for Google Talk or Gmail chats as well.

Keeping that in mind and knowing that the other party in your chat can keep the same kind of history, you may want to go "off the record" for certain conversations with certain people (you've probably heard of interviewees "going off the record" with journalists). Believe it or not, you can do this in your Gmail conversations also. Both you and the contact with whom you are chatting will receive notice that the current conversation has been taken off the record and will be saved in neither Gmail account.

Go "Off the Record" When Chatting in Gmail

To take conversations with your contact off the record:

  • Click Options in the chat window inside Gmail while (or before) talking.
  • Select Go off the record from the menu.
  • Continue your conversation.

To enable Gmail's chat history again for the contact:

  • Click Options in the chat window while talking to the "off the records" contact.
  • Select Stop chatting off the record.

FYI: The Other Party May Still Archive Your Conversation

While going off the record in Gmail will prevent both your and the other party's Gmail accounts from recording your conversations, take heed that they may still connect to Google Talk using an instant messaging program that archives chats.