dynamiteA team of computer scientists from the University of Washington has developed Vanish, a program that lets you create an email or a document that will self-destruct at a given time. At the moment it’s still in the developmental stage, but you can download a trial copy that will enable you to use a Firefox plugin to create the various temporary documents. There’s also an online Vanish service if you’re leery of installing a trial app.

From what I can gather from the press release and an article in the New York Times, Vanish works by using an existing distributed encryption system and causing the key to degrade after a set period of time, resulting in a permanently incomprehensible text.


  1. Hmmm – I hope that institutional users consult with their records folks or legal counsel about retention periods – this has the potential to be extremely useful or an utter disaster if implemented without due thought. Like everything.