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

Sending emails can be particularly stressful when transferring private information. Luckily, the team at Google devised a new method known as confidential mode that enables users to send emails via Gmail that automatically disappear after a specified amount of time.

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

What is Gmail Confidential Mode?

Emails sent in confidential mode not only disappear at a specified date and time, but they also prevent recipients from forwarding, copying, printing, or downloading the message's contents. Confidential emails can be sent to other Gmail users or those using a completely different platform such as Outlook, iCloud, or Yahoo.

How to Use Confidential Mode to Send Emails in Gmail

If you’re using the official Gmail website to send emails, you can opt to use the confidential mode directly within the compose feature:

  1. Visit the Gmail website and log in with your information if prompted.

    Next button to login to Gmail
  2. Select Compose to begin crafting an email.

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

    Confidential mode icon in Gmail
  4. Choose when you would like your message to expire, then select Save.

    Save button in Confidential Mode

    For extra security, opt to require all recipients to enter a code sent via text message to their device before they can open the email.

  5. Compose your email as usual, then select Send.

How to Use Confidential Mode in the Gmail App

If you’re composing 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 information if prompted.

  2. Select the Compose button to begin crafting an email.

    Compose button in Gmail for Android
  3. Select the More icon In the top-right corner of the compose window; the icon will appear as three horizontal dots.

    More button in Gmail for Android
  4. Select Confidential mode from the pop-up menu.

    Confidential mode in Gmail for Android
  5. Select when you would like your message to 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 via text message before they can open the email.

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

    Edit button in Gmail for Android
  7. Compose your email as usual, then select Send.

How to Open a Confidential Email in Gmail

If you're a Gmail user, open a confidential email just as you would a regular email on the website or using the mobile app. If the email requires a passcode, you'll receive a text message with the necessary code.

If you are not a Gmail user, follow the link provided within the confidential email. A passcode will be sent to your device via text message before you can review its contents.

Important Privacy Considerations

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