Google's recent update of its Gmail app made archive the default setting, encouraging its users to save their email, literally, forever.
This may mean a doctor's message about a medical condition, a love note, a conversation about an employer, a neighbor, or with a therapist, may be preserved for decades and, consequently, is left forever at risk.
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Gmail app users haven't lost the option of deleting an email. But in its redesign of the Gmail app, Google is nudging users away from the delete option.
Accepting archive as the email default requires blind faith that the account won't be breached either next week or 30 years from now. It requires faith that the data won't be mined in new ways by Google, beyond ad targeting, or some successor firm. It also means having faith that somehow the new love in your life won't stumble upon old messages to lost loves.
Unless users go into general settings and tap some switches, the trash icon won't appear on the app tool bar. While this design change in Gmail is easily undone, many may not bother and herein lies the problem.
Users should manage their email and consider, what it is they wish to keep and not just give in ease of defaulting to archive, advise email management and security professionals.
Michael Harold, CTO of ArcMail, an email archive and management firm, said "it's to Google's benefit to capture everything that comes through the system for purposes of analytics."
"It's a business, and information is the business, and the user is actually the product," said Harold. "So if that's not an issue for you as an individual, it's nothing at all," he said.
But if you want to make sure that old messages don't show up for whatever the reason, Harold advises Gmail users to maintain control over their email. For businesses users, there are options, such as through Google's Vault, of managing retention policies.
Andrew Storms, director of security operations for Tripwire, a security firm, says he will delete or consciously archive an email. He doesn't default. "I try to make a decision about every email," he said.
Storms said his personal rule is to delete anything he would not want out in the public. He doesn't assume the safety of anything, and that includes the possibility that authentication systems won't somehow be breached.
"For me, being a security professional, it's more about the unknown," said Storms.
In consider the Gmail app changes, Richard Kline, a professor at Pace University's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, said Google has been paying a lot more attention to design and aesthetics lately.
While Google has been encouraging people to archive rather than delete for a long time, Kline said the interface change may be an effort to provide the most important features in a way that is still useable on a small screen.
The best evidence that usability was a major driver's in Google's app redesign, said Kline, is that the Web interface has remained the same, with the archive and delete buttons next to each other.