Gmail Confidential Mode

Confidential Mode in Gmail is a powerful feature that allows users to send emails with added security and control. This mode ensures that sensitive information stays private by enabling the sender to set an expiration date for emails, after which they are automatically deleted from the recipient's inbox. Additionally, Confidential Mode prevents recipients from forwarding, copying, downloading, or printing the email content and attachments.

In this article you will learn:

Why is confidential mode helpful?

How to enable confidential mode in the Admin console

How to send a confidential email

The difference between Internal vs. external email using Confidential Mode

How to Search for confidential mode emails in Vault

Additional tips for education users

Why is Confidential Mode Helpful?

Confidential Mode is not just a feature but a practical solution for maintaining privacy and security in email communication. Its ability to control the actions recipients can take with an email is a game-changer in preventing the unintentional sharing of sensitive information. This practicality makes it a must-have in environments where secure sharing of confidential data is a daily necessity, such as in educational institutions.

Key benefits include:

  • Enhanced Security: Protect sensitive information by preventing unauthorized actions on emails.
  • Automated Expiry: Set expiration dates for emails to ensure they are only accessible for a specified period.
  • Additional Authentication: Require recipients to enter a verification code sent via SMS to add an extra layer of security.

How to enable Confidential Mode in the Admin console

For Google Workspace Admins, enabling and managing Confidential Mode is simple:

  1. Access Admin Console: Navigate to the Admin console.
  2. Go to Gmail Settings: Select Apps > Google Workspace > Gmail > User settings.
  3. Enable Confidential Mode: Scroll down to Confidential mode. Click on the setting and check the checkbox to Enable Confidential Mode for your organization.
  4. Click Save.

How to Send a Confidential Email

Sending a confidential email in Gmail is straightforward and ensures your information is protected:

  1. Open a New Message: Begin by composing a new email.
  2. Activate Confidential Mode: Click the lock icon with a clock at the bottom of the email compose window to enable Confidential Mode.
  3. Set Expiration Date: Choose how long you want the email to be accessible by setting an expiration date.
  4. Require Authentication (Optional): If desired, enable the option to require a verification code via SMS.
  5. Save Settings: Confirm your settings by clicking Save.
  6. Send the Email: Once you're ready, click Send.

By following these steps, you ensure that your email is sent with the added protections provided by Confidential Mode.

Internal vs. external email using Confidential Mode

When an external Gmail user sends a confidential email to a recipient within your organization, the handling of the email differs from internal messages. Here’s what happens:

  • Limited Retention: Only the message headers and subjects are retained in Google Vault. The actual content of the email and any attachments are not accessible.
  • Restricted Access: While the subject line is visible, the confidential information within the email remains protected and cannot be viewed or exported through Vault.
  • Confidential Mode Indicator:
    • External Email: The top of the email contains a banner indicating the sender used Gmail confidential mode.
    • Internal Email: Shows the Confidential mode icon and expiration at the bottom of the email.

You can create a compliance rule to block incoming confidential mode emails from external users. CDW Amplified for Education highly recommends blocking external (incoming) confidential messages because at this point, they are not retained/searchable within Vault.

Searching for Confidential Mode emails in Vault

Google Vault allows administrators to manage and retrieve confidential mode emails within the organization. Here’s how you can search for and handle these emails:

  1. Access Google Vault: Sign in to your Google Vault account.
  2. Perform a Search: Use the search bar to enter your query. To specifically search for confidential emails, uselabel:confidentialmode.
  3. View Results: Vault displays any confidential messages that match your search parameters.
  4. Manage Content Visibility:
    • Preview Mode: Choose to hide or show confidential message content when previewing.
    • Print or Export: Opt to exclude confidential message content when printing or exporting messages.

Additional Tips for Education Users

Confidential Mode can be a valuable tool for protecting student and staff information in educational environments. However, it's essential to manage its use carefully to avoid potential issues.

  • Internal Messages: You can fully manage and retain messages sent within your organization using Google Vault.
  • External Messages: For messages from outside your domain, only headers and subjects are retained, limiting access to the content.
  • Compliance Rules: Consider setting up compliance rules to block external confidential emails to ensure all communications are searchable and retained appropriately.


Use vault for Gmail confidential messages

Learn about preventing student-to-student emails


Document Version Date Description of Change
1.1 5/28/2024 remove author block
1.2 7/10/2024 blog rewrite, image update, reverified


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