How to Use Gmail's Confidential Mode

Set your emails to self-destruct using Gmail and the Gmail App

An envelope being sent between two secure devices.

 Getty Images/Westend61

When you want to send emails that contain private information, use confidential mode in Google Gmail to send messages that automatically disappear after a specified amount of time. Gmail confidential mode also prevents recipients from forwarding, copying, printing, or downloading the message contents. Confidential emails can be sent to other Gmail users or those who use a different platform such as Outlook, iCloud, or Yahoo.

Instructions in this article apply to the web browser version of Gmail and the Gmail app for Android and iOS devices.

How to Use Confidential Mode to Send Emails in Gmail

If you use the official Gmail website to send emails, use the confidential mode in the compose window.

  1. Go to the Gmail website and log in with your username and password.

    Next button to login to Gmail
  2. Select Compose.

    Compose button in Gmail
  3. At the bottom of the compose window, select the Confidential Mode icon (the lock with a clock on it).

    Confidential mode icon in Gmail
  4. Choose when the message will expire, then select Save.

    Save button in Confidential Mode

    For extra security, select SMS passcode to require recipients to enter a code sent in a text message to their device before they can open the email.

  5. Compose the email, then select Send.

How to Use Confidential Mode in the Gmail App

If you compose emails on the go with the Gmail mobile app for either iOS or Android, you can also quickly send confidential content while in confidential mode.

  1. Open the Gmail app and log in with your username and password.

  2. Select Compose.

    Compose button in Gmail for Android
  3. Select the More icon (the three horizontal dots).

    More button in Gmail for Android
  4. Select Confidential mode.

    Confidential mode in Gmail for Android
  5. Select when the message will expire, then tap Save (or the Check mark icon on some devices).

    Expiration Save button in Gmail for Android

    Just like the Gmail website, you have the option to require all recipients to enter a code sent in a text message before they can open the email.

  6. Tap Edit after returning to your message to change the expiration date.

    Edit button in Gmail for Android
  7. Compose the email, then select Send.

How to Open a Confidential Email in Gmail

If you use Gmail, open a confidential email the same way you open a regular email on the website or mobile app. If the email requires a passcode, you'll receive a text message with the code.

If you're not a Gmail user, follow the link provided in the confidential email to request a passcode. Then, enter the passcode found in the text message sent to your device to view the contents of the message.

Important Privacy Considerations

While Google has placed precautions in their system to prevent information in confidential emails from spreading, receivers may take a screenshot of the information or use malicious software to bypass security restrictions. Take caution when sending any private data over the internet.