Earlier this year, Google introduced Gmail confidential mode for both consumer and G Suite users. While the former were able to use it immediately, the latter depended on whether their domain admin chose to enable it (as it was and is still in beta).
But, starting on June 25, the feature will be turned on by default and it will be on admins to turn it off – if they don’t explicitly choose to disable it before that date.
How does Gmail confidential mode work?
Confidential emails are self-destructing and/or protected by passwords, and impossible to forward, copy, download or print. They can also be revoked.
“When a user sends a confidential message, Gmail replaces the message body and attachments with a link. Only the subject and body containing the link are sent via SMTP,” Google explained.
“This means that if your users send or receive messages in Gmail confidential mode, Vault will retain, preserve, search and export confidential mode messages. The message body of received messages will be accessible in Vault only if the sender of the message is from within your organization.”
Gmail clients make the linked content appear as if it’s part of the message, but third-party mail clients display a link in place of the content.
Options and warnings
G Suite administrators can:
- Disable or enable Gmail confidential mode for their entire domain or for specific organizational units (users can still receive messages in confidential mode)
- Block all incoming messages in confidential mode by setting up a compliance rule
- Define rules to handle confidential mode messages.
Google also warns that the feature might be incompatible with organizations’ eDiscovery and retention obligations if their domain uses third-party eDiscovery or archiving tools.
“Before enabling this feature, we recommend you discuss the impact with your eDiscovery administrators and other policymakers,” they advise.
Finally, Google made sure to point out that recipients can still take screenshots or photos of emails sent in confidential mode, and that malware may be able to copy or download them emails or the attachments in them.