The problem with sharing files and even sending emails is that your data can remain on one or more servers for an indefinite amount of time. If you’re sending private information – whether that’s passwords, banking information, or something more risque – that’s really not something you want.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way around this which is to simply use tools that let you set your messages or files to self-destruct. Below we cover several examples of such tools that work on your PC, phone or tablet. Firefox Send, for example, is a great tool that lets you send self-destructing files from any browser without setting up an account and Snapmail turns gmail into a self-destructive email app. In each case, we run you through how to use the program, bringing your attention to any standout features or shortcomings.
Just remember, even when using self-destructing files that there’s still always a very small risk that data could end up in the wrong hands – you’re sending it to someone else, after all. If this sounds like a risk you can’t afford to take, then maybe think twice before sending it at all.
Self-destructing PC tools
Firefox’s handy new Send tool makes sending large files as quick and easy as dragging them to your browser and sharing a link. What’s more, because the files are set to self-destruct after they’ve been downloaded, you’ll never have to worry about using up space in your cloud storage or deleting old files that you’ve left online.
There’s no need to set up a Send account or download any software to use the service. Just visit send.firefox.com in any browser (not just Firefox) and drag and drop files of up to 1GB in size to upload them and generate a secure, encrypted download link. Each link remains active for up to 24 hours or until the file is downloaded, at which point the link expires automatically. You can review all your currently live files by refreshing send.firefox.com.
There are plenty of services for sending self-destructing text messages on your phone, but finding an app that’ll do the the same when you send an email on your computer is a little trickier. One of our favourite tools is Chrome extension Snapmail, which lets you send emails from Gmail that disappear automatically after 60 seconds. Install the extension from the Chrome Web Store and when you compose a new email, simply click the Snapmail button instead of Send. The recipient receives a secure link to the message and once opened, it’ll expire within one minute. The extension will only encrypt text, so if you want to send images or other attachments, then you’re better off using Firefox Send.
Self-destructing phone and tablet tools
If you need to share passwords or other private information with your friends, then Telegram’s ‘Secret chats’ give you the confidence that this information won’t end up in the wrong hands. Secret chats not only offer end-to-end encryption, but also block forwarding of content and let you order your messages, photos, videos and other files to self-destruct a specific amount of time after they’ve been read or opened.
To start a new secret chat on an Android device, open Telegram’s main menu and select New Secret Chat. On iOS, tap the icon in the top-right corner in Messages then choose New Secret Chat. Next, choose the recipient and set the self-destruct timer by tapping the clock icon and then choosing the desired time limit. Now, when you send a message or file, it’ll disappear according to this timer.
It’s worth noting that secret chats are device-specific, so if you start a secret chat on your Android phone, it’ll only be visible there, not on your other devices. Any messages you send before setting the self-destruct timer will remain visible to the recipient unless you manually delete them. To do this, long-press the individual message (not the chat) and choose Delete. Photos sent with a timer of less than a minute are not available to download and screenshots are also blocked.
If you want to send end-to-end encrypted, self-destructive messages, you might not need to download a dedicated messaging app such as Telegram because both these features are now supported by Facebook Messenger. To open a ‘Secret Conversation’ in Messenger for Android, open a normal conversation with the person you want to share private information with, then tap the info button and choose ‘Go to Secret Conversation’. Like Telegram, Messenger lets you send messages, photos and videos in Secret Conversations, but there’s no support for other files.
Apple iMessage’s ‘Invisible Ink’ feature lets you make messages invisible until the recipient chooses to reveal them, but there’s no option to set them to self-destruct, which means it only offers added fun and not security. However, it is possible to create self-destructive messages in iMessage by installing the third-party app Confide. Tap the Apps icon within iMessage, then tap the Additional Apps option before selecting the ‘+ Store’ icon. Once you’re in the store, tap the search icon to search for Confide and then install it.
To send a self-destructive message with Confide, tap the Apps icon again and then swipe right until you see Confide. Select Get Started and you can then choose whether you want to send a self-destructive message or photo. After entering your message, tap Continue and then the Send button in iMessage. The message appears as an iMessage attachment on the recipient’s device, unless they need to install Confide, in which case they’ll see a link they can tap to install it. Swiping your finger across a message reveals it and you can only view each message once, after which it automatically self-destructs. If you find the process of sending Confide messages in iMessage a bit clunky, you can just use the Confide app directly, providing your recipient has it, too. It’s also available for Windows, Mac and Android using the link above.