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Vanish: Email that Disappears After Sending - A Review

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Murphy's Law tends to determine when the information we posted pops up. You can bet that whatever you don't want found will appear seemingly from nowhere when you least expect it and didn't want to see it. What if we could send information or post it online with a “use-by” time/date like the “Mission Impossible” assignment tapes, knowing that unless someone makes a deliberate decision to copy it to a permanent format, it'll disappear forever? It's no longer a “what if' situation. You can get and run it right now. It's called Vanish and works on most flavors of Linux, OSX, and Windows XP (Vista real soon now). Technology expert A. Lizard offers a how-to on how it works, where to get it, what you need to run it, how to install it, possible security and business model issues, and where this technology can be reasonably expected to go.
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Remember “Mission Impossible” where the assignment tapes came with a “This tape will self-destruct in 30 seconds” message, followed by a puff of smoke coming from the tape player?

Imagine e-mail or IM messages that also have a very definite “use-it–or-lose-it” timeframe to make sure your remarks are not recorded for posterity to howl at with laughter. Now, you don't have to. It's off-the-shelf with minor assembly required and a minor PITA factor in terms of usage, and the solution is called Vanish. The Vanish software package is the result of a University of Washington Computer Science Department research project.

Note that Vanish is alpha proof-of-concept technology software, though it actually works, and we can expect convenience to improve as time progresses.

Why Do We Need Vanish?

Have you ever said something stupid in casual conversation? Have you ever said something stupid in casual conversation online and had that stupid come back to haunt you a few years later? (Here’s a prime example: The HR interviewer hands you a printout at a job interview or you're running for public office and you just found out the hard way that opposition researchers know how to use Google.)

Does your organization have document retention policies which give business-related email a defined lifespan and no good way to automatically enforce them for telecommuters?

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