disappearing e-mail

Disappearing e-mail is a message sent using a type of distribution management tool for e-mail.

Disappearing e-mail is a message sent using a type of distribution management tool for e-mail. A message sent with one of these products may disappear from the recipient's inbox, or may be still there, but altered by the sender. A user of the software can set various policies on messages that control a recipient's access to them after they are sent. For example, a user or company may stipulate a limit on how long a message will be held on the server, or whether a message can be copied, printed, forwarded, or saved. Some of the products allow a sender to retrieve messages from a recipient's inbox or to revise them, a capability that would be appreciated by a sender who had succumbed to e-mail rage or by an e-mail newsletter editor who discovered a serious error too late.

According to Omniva (formerly called Disappearing Inc), their product, Policy Manager, enables the electronic equivalent of sending a message written with disappearing ink: at a certain point, the message - which contains a stored encryption key that expires when the sender stipulates - is no longer readable. There are several other products available, including Atabok's VCNMail 2.0, Authentica's MailRecall. Larger companies, including Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook, are also including distribution management features in their most recent versions.

This was first published in September 2005

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