Google just debuted a major upgrade to Gmail — and its features could be perfect for real estate.

The new Gmail, announced by Google in a blog post Wednesday comes with “confidential mode.” The settings will allow Gmail users to unsend emails, set expiration dates on emails and require a passcode sent via SMS to access an email along with other security features. Confidential mode will also allow email senders to remove the ability for their recipients to forward, copy, download or print messages.

“With confidential mode, it’s possible to protect sensitive content in your emails by creating expiration dates or revoking previously sent messages,” Google wrote in a blog post. “Because you can require additional authentication via text message to view an email, it’s also possible to protect data even if a recipient’s email account has been hijacked while the message is active.”

An early report in The Verge speculated that Google would debut these new features at a developers conference in May, but Google released the news earlier than expected this week. Google didn’t respond to request for comment from Inman.

Features like these will no doubt quickly be adopted by Gmail users in the workplace — and real estate is an industry where sensitive, personal information is sent back and forth via email every day. Google said in its blog post that rollout to Gmail users, both individual consumer users and business Gmail accounts, would begin in the coming weeks.

Gmail Confidential Mode screenshot

Screenshot of animation showing Google’s new ‘confidential mode’ feature for Gmail. Credit: Google

Real estate agents are cautiously optimistic about the new feature and how they would incorporate it into their day-to-day work.

“It would be great to be able to send out forwarded emails to someone and not have my client’s information on there,” said Catherine Marcus Bassick, a senior real estate adviser at Sotheby’s in Boston, speculating about future Gmail security features.

A feature restricting who receives what information in email forwards would come in handy at many points in the real estate transaction, including communications from agent to agent, Bassick said. She could easily share information about a transaction with others involved in the transaction without worrying about forwarding clients’ sensitive personal or financial information.

But confidential mode restrictions wouldn’t change how many agents use email. None of these features would prevent an email recipient from taking screenshots, taking photos of a computer screen with a cell phone camera or otherwise sharing received information.

“Motto: Do not send anything in an email or text that you would not want read out loud in a courtroom,” real estate and mortgage industry educator Jillayne Schlicke wrote on Facebook.

“I’m usually positive and find out how I could use anything — like if you’re sending a credit card number, the Snapchat idea of having the email disappear,” added Portland, Oregon-based Keller Williams broker team leader Sarita Lahoti Dua. “But I feel like the world has sort of forgotten that we have a camera with us at all times. As a real estate agent, my reaction is not to use these features.”

In complex financial transactions, Lahoti Dua added, there may be a legal reason you end up needing records of every communication throughout that transaction. Setting emails to expire or restricting how those emails are used by recipients could inhibit that record-keeping.

Along with confidential mode, Google is updating Gmail with other features. The email inbox will feature “nudges” that say things like “Received three days ago. Reply?” and tools that let you “snooze” an email from your inbox until the next day and open attachments directly from the inbox without opening an email thread.

The new Gmail also features enhanced security warnings about spam or dangerous email. For those using personal Gmail accounts, you can access the new version by clicking the gear icon near the upper right corner of the Inbox view and clicking “Try the new Gmail.” Those using accounts managed by a business or organization must request access from their administrator, who can enable it by consulting the bottom of this page.

Email Emma Hinchliffe

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