Gmail’s ‘self­de­struct’ op­tion faces scru­tiny

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Margi Mur­phy

BRI­TAIN’S in­for­ma­tion watch­dog may block gov­ern­ment use of a new Google fea­ture that al­lows some­one to delete an email once it is sent.

The new Gmail fea­ture has been hailed as a rev­o­lu­tion for those who have suf­fered the em­bar­rass­ment of send­ing an email to the wrong per­son. Users can set an ex­piry date for when the email is per­ma­nently deleted and al­low it to lock it­self after a cer­tain time if left unopened.

How­ever, con­cerns have been raised over its po­ten­tial mis­use in pub­lic of­fice, by en­abling some­one to eas­ily de­stroy doc­u­ments re­motely.

Un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act and Pub­lic Records Act, Bri­tons may re­quest emails and cor­re­spon­dence from gov­ern­ment de­part­ments.

The In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice told The Sun­day Tele­graph: “We are aware of the use of so­cial me­dia apps and col­lab­o­ra­tion tools across both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors.

‘The use of [con­fi­den­tial mode] func­tion­al­ity will be taken into ac­count with our on­go­ing work in this area’

“The ICO wel­comes the use of in­no­va­tive tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions and recog­nises the ben­e­fits that tools such as these can bring – both in gen­eral and in terms of pri­vacy.

“How­ever, we are also aware that their use can have im­pli­ca­tions for the ex­er­cise of in­for­ma­tion rights.”

The ICO, which gov­erns data pro­tec­tion as well as the FOI Act, said Google’s new email fea­tures “raised con­cerns” and it would be in­ves­ti­gat­ing a po­ten­tial pol­icy change.

“We are aware of the re­cently an­nounced con­fi­den­tial mode within Gmail that in­cludes the ex­piry func­tion re­ferred to in the news ar­ti­cle and are also aware of sim­i­lar auto-dele­tion set­tings in cer­tain mes­sag­ing apps and other col­lab­o­ra­tive tools.

“The use of such func­tion­al­ity will be taken into ac­count with our on­go­ing work in this area,” it added.

Gmail is to re­write its fea­tures in its big­gest over­haul in five years, but may have to con­sider lighter ver­sions of the new app for civil ser­vants.

The ser­vice is used by 1.5bn peo­ple a month.

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