How to Use Confidential Mode in Gmail

Pull a James Bond and set your emails to self-destruct

An envelope being sent between two secure devices.
Send secure emails between devices with Gmail's Confidential Mode.

 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, enabling users to send emails via Gmail that automatically disappear after a specified amount of time.

What is Gmail Confidential Mode?

New confidential emails sent to recipients will not only disappear at a specified date and time, but will also attempt to prevent the user from forwarding, copying, printing, or downloading its contents. Best of all, 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

There are a couple of ways you can use confidential mode, including from the Gmail website, and the official mobile app.

Screenshots of sending confidential emails on Gmail.com
Easily send confidential emails via Google's Gmail website.

Gmail Website

If you’re using the official Gmail website to send emails, you can opt to use the confidential mode directly within the compose feature. Here's how you get started:

  1. Visit the Gmail website and log in with your information if prompted.
  2. Select the Compose button to begin crafting an email.
  3. In the bottom-right corner of the compose window, select the Confidential Mode icon, represented as a picture of a lock with a clock on it.
  4. From the pop-up window, select when you would like your message to expire.
    1. Tip: If you choose, you can also opt to require all recipients to enter a code sent via text message to their device before they can open the email.
  5. Select Save.
  6. Compose your email as usual, then select Send.

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 composing. Here's how you get started:

Screenshots showing how to send confidential emails in the Gmail mobile app.
Send confidential emails on the go with the Gmail mobile app.
  1. Open the Gmail app and log in with your information if prompted.
  2. Select the Compose button to begin crafting an email.
  3. In the top-right corner of the compose window select the More icon; the icon will appear as three horizontal dots.
  4. From the pop-up menu, select Confidential Mode.
  5. From the pop-up window, select when you would like your message to expire.
    1. Tip: Just like the Gmail website, you can also opt to require all recipients to enter a code sent via text message to their device before they can open the email.
  6. Select the Check icon to save your settings
  7. Compose your email as usual, then select Send.

How to Open a Confidential Email

If you're a Gmail user, you can quickly 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 be sent to your device before viewing, you'll receive a text message with the necessary code.

If you are not a Gmail user, you can still easily open a confidential email. Just 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

Gmail’s new confidential mode allows sensitive information to be sent between different email accounts, but take caution when sending any private data over the internet.

Women using her credit card online with a tablet.
Don't let Confidential Mode lull you into a sense of false security online.  Getty Images/Oscar Wong

While Google has placed precautions within their system to prevent the information from spreading, receivers may still screenshot the info or use malicious software to bypass security restrictions. As always, consider what you're sending others when composing an email.