Gmail’s ‘selfdestruct’ option faces scrutiny
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.