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Self-destructing messages are the future of personal communication. Whether you want to recall a hastily written email, get rid of a giveaway post, or block access to a file, it’s possible to retract online content that you don’t want people to view after you have shared it. Better yet, you can set a time limit on content right when you’re posting it.
Here are some types of digital content that you can recall or cause to self-destruct and the services that make it happen.
Gmail’s Undo button is a great feature, but it does not allow you to cancel sending an email beyond 30 seconds after you have hit Send. Dmail, a Chrome extension from the people who gave us the Delicious bookmarking service, removes that time limit. You can destroy/revoke access to any email anytime. Of course, this doesn’t work backwards in time. This means you can’t withdraw access to emails you sent before installing Dmail.
How exactly do you use Dmail?
It’s quite simple. After installing the extension, you’ll see a Dmail toggle switch in the Compose window and a few options to set the email to self-destruct. You’ll have complete control over every email you send keeping the Dmail switch turned on.
If the email recipient has Dmail installed, he’ll see your email as a regular Gmail message. If he hasn’t installed Dmail or uses an email service that’s not Gmail, he’ll receive a link to your message instead.
Destroying an email you have sent with Dmail is easy. Go into the Sent Mail folder, find that email, and click on the Revoke Email button. Ensure that you don’t use this trick too often to avoid annoying the recipients of your emails. Put more thought into your emails instead.
Want a Snapchat-like feature for your Gmail? Try the Chrome extension Snapmail.
After you have composed an email, hit Snapmail instead of Send. Once the recipient clicks on the Snapmail link in his inbox, he has 60 seconds to read the email.
Snapmail’s great for sharing sensitive messages that you don’t want floating around forever. But it’s not without its flaws and shows erratic behavior on occasion. It’s still a good extension to keep an eye on for further developments.
You might also want to check out Confidential CC, another privacy aware service to send confidential email.
Blog entries that are not relevant anymore can cause much confusion among readers. For example, a post related to a contest (or giveaway) that is past its deadline can set your readers up for disappointment unless there’s a clear mention that participation is no longer possible.
If you run a WordPress blog, you can get rid of such redundant content via the Post Expirator plugin. The plugin allows you to set an expiry date for posts and pages. You can choose whether you want the content to get deleted or reverted to draft.
The bottom line is that with Post Expirator you don’t have to worry about forgetting to remove stray posts one by one. Just put a time limit on them and let the plugin take care of the rest.
Shared Files in the Cloud
Certain cloud storage services like Box make it easy to put an “access time limit” on files that you share. But this is not the case with other popular services like Dropbox and Google Drive. For example, in Dropbox, the file expiration feature is available only to Pro and Business users. On Google Drive, you need this open-source Google Script to get the same capability.
One way to simplify the process of setting an expiration date on shared documents is by using a third-party app like Digify. It works with Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box.
Digify makes it easy to share files securely (and unshare them!), track who’s viewing them, and destroy them if you wish. You can even configure restrictions that prevent the recipients of your files from forwarding them or taking screenshots of them. Digify has apps for both desktop and mobile. You can try it for free.
Tweets and Messages
Your tweets are not always interesting conversations or funny one-liners that people will want to share, favorite, or retweet. Sometimes you use Twitter to post one-off questions or fix offline meetings. Such updates have only temporary value, so it makes sense to take them off the Web when they have outlived their purpose.
You can set up tweets to self-destruct by using a service like Daytweet. It allows you to specify an expiry time for your tweets when you’re sending them out. Efemr is another service that’s good for posting tweets that don’t last forever. If you want to delete old tweets dating back to a certain time in bulk, try TweetDelete.
The problem with secure communication apps like Telegram and Wickr is that they require everyone to move to a whole new platform. You can’t use Telegram to communicate with a friend unless the said friend is also on Telegram. This is quite limiting because it’s one more service to sign up for in a digital life that’s already cluttered. That’s where Kaboom (Android, iOS) takes a different approach. It makes your existing apps more privacy friendly.
With Kaboom you can share self-destructing messages and photos on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, SMS, and email. The best part? It works even if your friends don’t have Kaboom installed. And guess who’s behind Kaboom! The makers of the popular VPN Hotspot Shield.
If you want a private messaging system for regular use, Burn Note is still around. It allows you to send messages to anyone and have the messages set to auto destruct after a time limit of your choosing.
Take Back Your Words
Not happy with something you said online? Sent a sensitive file to the wrong person? Now you can make amends. Of course, being extra careful with what you share online in the first place is always, always better. Go a step ahead and consider encrypting your data to keep it from being misused and to avoid Internet surveillance.
Has content you shared online ever come back to cause you trouble? Were you able to get rid of it? Which services do you use to put a time limit on your digital content? Share them with us in the comments.