Sometimes you might have a need to send an email to somebody but you don’t want it to remain on their computer, for security or personal reasons. Unfortunately, it just isn’t possible using the normal emailing system to send an email to somebody and have it auto delete itself after they have read it or after a certain period of time, just think of the kinds of security issues that would bring.
Although you can’t do it with your normal emails, there is an alternative which is basically the next best option. That is to use a secure web service where you can leave your message, then you email and send a unique link for the message to the other user and they can visit the webpage and view what’s written. The link and the message both expire after viewing or a set period of time meaning your message never existed. Here we have found a selection of online services that can help you send a secure private message that will self destruct afterwards. It’s not left on a server somewhere, not in another users mail application, can’t be accidentally forwarded and it can’t be read by anyone else apart from who you sent it to.
DestructingMessage works using what it calls two different available methods, one is to generate the link to the message directly in your browser, the other is to email the link straight to the recipient. The email address will be asked for after you press the Create Message button. There is also a drop down box allowing you to choose how much time the message stays available for until it self destructs, 15 seconds to 5 minutes can be chosen. A link to the message will become available after you press the Create button which you then give to the other user to view. On viewing the message, a countdown timer will show time left until it reaches zero and deletes itself.
2. Burn Note
Burn Note have just updated their service and now it seems to be more like online chat and you need to create an account to send any messages. The amount of options seems to be restricted compared to the old version too. These include a time to delete in seconds, a password protection option and choosing to display the text to the recipient in either plain text, short phrases which hide after a few seconds until you click on it again and spotlight which highlights only a part of the text under the cursor with a circle. The free Burn Note account can store contacts, send the email for you and also notifies you when a note is read.
If you want to send a more visually appealing message than plain text, then Cloakmy could be the one for you because it offers WYSIWYG rich text formatting options for the message similar to posting on the raymond.cc forum. This includes text and color formatting as well as inserting hyperlinks and even images. A switchable code editor is available if you want to use a bit of HTML. As for the message options, you can send straight to an email using the box and include a subject or a security password. The expiration date can be set to auto delete upon receipt of the message, a set date range, or manual deletion only. The link to the message, link to delete the message and the document signature are displayed in the main window. Cloakmy also offers a secure chat room option.
Privnote is nice and simple at sending self destructing messages with very few options to speak of. After typing the message you can be notified on it’s receipt by ticking the box at the bottom and entering your own email and a reference note. After pressing the button you will be provided with a URL link to the message which can then be copied to an email program etc. As soon as the link is clicked on and the message read, it is deleted from the server. Unread messages will be kept on the server for 30 days.
6. This Message Will Self Destruct
TMWSD is another easy to use service that deletes the message as soon as it is retrieved by the recipient. Simply type in your message, enter a password for an added extra layer of security, tick the accept terms of service box (which you should always read for all of these types of service) and then click the Save button. On the next page just type in the name and email of the person you’re sending to or copy the URL to paste yourself. You can also send the message to more than 1 person by adding a new URL and an additional note can be included in the email. Creating an account gives access to message history and control over the message URL’s.
This service is similar to Privnote in its easy to use no nonsense approach. Click the button to start the process and simply type or paste in the message you want to send. There is a drop down option which sets the expiration date for the message if it isn’t read within the given period, this ranges from 30 minutes to 3 days. Once you click the Create button, a URL link box and a copy button provide the link to send to the message recipient. If you want the option, Android and Apple apps are available from the relevant stores.
The Crypt-A-Byte website also allows you to send and receive encrypted messages and files in addition to self destructing messages that auto delete as soon as they are read. The interface is about as simple as it gets with no configuration option whatsoever, type in your message into the box and enter the intended recipients email into the Email box, then click Send Message. The message will destruct as soon as the link in the email is clicked on. There is also a useful portable desktop tool that can send both self destructing message and encrypted messages.
Editor’s note: Although they all use SSL encryption to provide a reasonable layer of security, these services aren’t really designed for you to be sending highly valuable or confidential information and are more for sending simple or personal messages you don’t want to be stored on someone else’s computer or mail server. Obviously sending something to someone you don’t know or can’t trust isn’t advised because of the ease at which the text in the message can be copied by either cut and paste or a simple screenshot.