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Another Feature

Email messages never disappear, could be longlive liability

BANDUNG (JP): Are you haunted by some of the things you have said in an email over the years? Ever have that awful feeling of regret? You know you have been caught, and you wish, wish to God, that you could turn back the clock and make that one thing you did, said or wrote just go away. Maybe itwas misspelling your name on a resume, or a tongue-in-cheek email you sent.

Emails never really die. People like Monica Lewinsky, Bill Gates and Oliver North are celebrities who have learned the hard way that a message long thought deleted can be found on the network and later be used against its author. It is more of a danger than people realize.

Perhaps you have heard the story about NASA spending millions of dollars to develop a pen that can write in zero gravity, but I am not sure whether this pen can be used in normal gravity. A U.S. company called Disappearing,Inc. has a new piece of software that could change all that. It is like a new pen software equipped with "disappearing" ink, which makes your email unreadable after a specified period of time.

Disappearing Email is an email delivery system that allows users to send encrypted messages across the Internet, which can only be read for a specific length of time. After the time period has elapsed, the encryption key, necessary for reading the message, is deleted from the Disappearing Email Server, rendering the message unreadable and therefore worthless.

Disappearing Email works with Microsoft Outlook 98 or Outlook 2000 running on Windows 95, Windows 98 or NT. Outlook Express is a completely different product.

Disappearing Email does not support Outlook Express, but any email clientsoftware (Outlook Express, Eudora, etc.) can read Disappearing Email messages.

When you download the free edition Disappearing Email for Microsoft Outlook plug-in (about 350KB) from Disappearing's Web site (, it is automatically installed and a "Send Disappearing" icon appears on the Outlook toolbar. You use Outlook in the normal way to compose messages. If you want to set a time limit on the message, click on the Send Disappearing icon. The plug-in encrypts your messages using the 128-bit Blowfish algorithm. It accesses Disappearing's key server through a secure link, assigns a unique decryption key, and sends the message on its way.

On the receiving end, the email server is once again contacted for the necessary key, and the message is then decoded and displayed to the viewer. For recipients that are not running Outlook, the email viewer allows themto view Disappearing encoded messages within their browser. But after the time limit specified by the sender, the decryption key is erased from Disappearing's key server, making the message unreadable and effectively destroying it, even if the recipient stores it.

Users of Disappearing Email for Microsoft Outlook can specify shorter or longer time periods for the message to expire, starting as short as 30 minutes. The simplicity of the system is underscored on the receiving side.The recipient does not need a plug-in or any special software to read your message. Any mail client that handles HTML, including all major email programs and browser-based emails, such as Hotmail or Yahoo, can read yourmail.

What happens when someone replies to or forwards a Disappearing Email? When you send a reply, a forwarded or redirected message a second key is generated, and both keys are needed to read the reply. So when the originalmessage expires, you can be certain that any replies or forwarded copies are also permanently unreadable. You can, if you wish, send a reply or forward the email that is set to expire before the original message, but because the original sender's expiration setting is always honored, you cannot extend the life of the conversation by setting a later expiration.

There are some minor glitches that you must be aware of in Disappearing Email's known issue. First, it may not work correctly if your Internet connection is using a proxy server or firewalls that perform http validation. Second, when Word is set as the email editor in Microsoft Outlook, you cannot send Disappearing Email. Finally, HTML and rich text message formatting cannot be preserved inside the Disappearing Email message.

With email, we sometimes use language very loosely, but it should be understood that we should not use this "disappearing" email technology illegally or to hurt someone's feelings by sending misleading information or bad words. The point is, because we are making this powerful technology so publicly available we need to protect the community and ourselves from any abuse. As new technology comes into being, it is up to everyone to manage how they are applied so that everyone can benefit.

After you read this article, you will be able to breathe easier in the knowledge that your hasty email's thoughts will not come back to haunt you at some far distant point in the future after using the new products from Disappearing, Inc.

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