For the past few years, technology gurus have been developing software to allow an e-mail message to vanish or become unreadable after a certain length of time or upon the sender’s request. There are two types of self destructing e-mail software.
The first type is retractable e-mail such as the Gmail Labs (the testing ground for Gmail features) “undo send” command which can be programmed to allow you 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds to retract a message. This type of self-destructing e-mail allows you to to immediately retract messages sent in haste or to the wrong individuals provided you issue the retraction command within the time limit. Retractable e-mail may not cause a lot of concern from the IM and e-discovery perspectives if it is used purely to correct errors.
The second type of self destructing e-mail, however, is likely to keep IM practitioners and lawyers awake at night because it can be used to circumvent official/corporate e-mail systems by providing an alternative means of communication which is difficult to track. With this type self-destructing e-mail, the sender places a message on a secure website for a limited, pre-set time period and the recipient is notified by e-mail, text message or other means to visit the site to view the message. Some of these applications provide the added security of allowing a message to be read only with a password.
A new entrant in this space is BurnNote whose advertising states, “Burn Note enables you to communicate online as privately as a spoken conversation”. A Burn Note can be read only once by the recipient – once it has been read, it cannot be viewed again. And, by default, each Burn Note has a timer after which time it will be automatically deleted. The timer starts as soon as the recipient begins viewing the message. But if the sender does not use a timer, the Burn Note will remain visible until the recipient manually deletes it or leaves the page. Unread Burn Notes are automatically deleted after 72 hours.
Note: Products/vendors are mentioned for illustration purposes only. Their mention in IMpress blog posts do not constitute an endorsement by either the author or by Ergo Information Management Consulting.