Self-destructing Email through Encryption

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On, an interesting article about a start-up company called
Disappearing Inc. was posted on October 8. The service the company
will provide essentially deletes permanently subscriber's email after
a predetermined amount of time.

The technology used for the deletion is a form of encryption, and it
will work even if the recipient of the email does not have the
plug-in. An added feature is the ability to delete an email after
sending but before the receiver reads it: they'll simply get a message
stating the email was deleted. In the end, unless the receiver printed
or screen-shot the email, the message will self-destruct and will be

This adds an interesting twist to the encryption debate, doesn't it?
As opposed to encryption violating all the principles of eavesdropable
privacy as feared by the government, it is instead securing a type of
privacy that is rather ancient- the viability and permanent
destructability of old-fashioned letters.

The URL for the article is:

-- Cynthia Johanson, October 11, 1999


That's a very interesting application of cryptography. There seem to be two different applications of this software:
a. To set a time limit on the life of an email message
b. To be able to cancel messages that were already sent (before the recipient reads them)

This reminds me of one of those spy TV shows: "This message will self destruct in five seconds." Seriously though, this technology would have probably helped Microsoft in hiding all that email that was sent out that was held against them. But I wonder how this new technology adds to the whole Crypto Export debate. Does this mean that the software can't be sold Internationally (does the software explain the encryption algorithm it uses?). How about emailing addresses in foreign countries? Could this software be used in that scenario?

-- Ajay Kulkarni, October 12, 1999



Well, that link is dead.

But what do you think about this one ??

-- Steve S, October 16, 2005

secre mail

-- john andersen, January 23, 2007