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Criptext for Gmail: Secure Email, Read Receipts, and Unsend Messages

Criptext install on ChromeHello, everybody, I’m here to talk to you today about Criptext. Criptext is a service that lets you encrypt, track, and unsend emails completely on your terms. For real. And unlike the Google Undo Send Option, it doesn’t matter if someone opened your email already or forwarded it on to a million people. With Criptext, there is unlimited takesies backsies. You click a button and *poof* it’s gone.

It’s free; it works for Gmail, and it’s simple enough for a seven-year-old to use. Let me show you how.

How Criptext Works

You nerds out there have probably already figured out how this works. It’s quite simple. Criptext takes the message you typed into Gmail and converts it into an image that they host on their server. So, when your recipient gets your email, it’s just an image of your text embedded in the email. When you “unsend” the email, Criptext deletes the image from their server. When the recipient goes back to look at in their inbox, it’ll be replaced with a picture that says “Email successfully unsent.”

Because it’s an image hosted on a Criptext server, Criptext knows exactly when someone views your message. That means you can see when someone has read your email, no matter what email client they use or whether or not they’ve enabled read receipts.

Check Criptext out in action below.

To get started, go to From there, you can install the Criptext Chrome extension. You’ll have to link your Google account to Criptext for it to work. Your recipients won’t, though.

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How to Setup Criptext

After you link up with Criptext, you’ll get a splash screen that’ll walk you through Criptext’s essential features.

Criptext installed in gmail

Next time you compose a message, you’ll notice some new bells and whistles. There’ll be a little toggle in the lower-left that lets you swap between sending a secure Criptext message and a regular Gmail email.

Criptext compose secure mesage

This is what your recipients will see at first. They’ll have to enable external images in whatever email client they have to see your message. Here it is in Outlook:

secure criptext email in outlook

And when you enable the images, the message is displayed:

criptext in action in outlook

Here’s the same message in the Gmail iOS app:

Criptext in ios gmail

And displayed:

criptext on your iphone

On your end, you’ll have a new Activity panel in your Gmail inbox. Click it to keep tabs on your messages.

criptext activity panel

The UNSEND button is where the magic happens. Click it, and here’s what they see when they go back to look at your message:

criptext successfully unsent

This works with attachments, too. With attachments, it’s the same concept but with any file up to 100 MB. Criptext hosts it and Criptext can taketh away at your bidding. You can even set self-destruct timers on email messages.

Criptext Limitations

Criptext is intuitive, free, and conceptually solid. That being said, here are the limitations that I’ve identified:

  • No mobile Gmail integration.  Criptext has a newfangled dedicated mobile messenger app, but if you want to send Criptext emails to the uninitiated, you’re stuck with the desktop experience.
  • Intuitive, but not transparent.  The beauty of Criptext is that it barely requires your recipients to do anything extra. But there will still be those few technologically-inept recipients who will see the broken image icon and not know to click the “Download pictures” notification on their client. They might even panic and worry they’ve been hacked or invaded by aliens — (reminder, I’m not an alien.)
  • Savvy users can still save your emails. Just like with Snapchat, which is supposed to be ephemeral, there’s nothing stopping people from screenshotting your messages or downloading the message images to their desktop for future blackmail or whatever.
  • Criptext Chrome extension may interfere with other Gmail features. As with many Chrome extensions, some people have reported unexpected interactions with other Chrome extensions or Gmail lab features when Criptext takes over their inbox. These are interface bugs, though, and I’d expect them to be fixed as time goes on (if they haven’t yet).
  • Reliant on Criptext’s servers. Criptext hosts your messages, so if you or your recipient can’t access their servers for whatever reason, then your messages are likewise inaccessible.
  • The fine print. Criptext is a third-party service and, as with all free services, which comes with the usual concerns and cautions.
    • You are entrusting your security and privacy with another company; whether or not you trust them as far as you can throw them is up to you.
    • Criptext comes with no warranty and it really shouldn’t. If you need a 100% guarantee of security for work or government purposes, you should be paying someone something for it.
    • As with all free services, it behooves you to ask: how is this company making money? With Criptext, it seems to be through venture capital for the moment. There’s no advertising or personal data harvesting that I know of, so I imagine they are expecting to shoehorn their brand recognition and user base into deals with enterprises.
    • If Criptext is going to be mission critical to you, then I encourage you to read through their Terms of Service and Privacy Statement, both of which touch upon some of the limitations I talk about above (Criptext stores your messages on their server, and they can’t promise users won’t save copies locally). But as far as companies go, I don’t see any reason to be suspicious of Criptext any more than you would for Facebook or Apple or Google.
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All that aside, Criptext is slick and seemingly reliable. If you don’t mind making a small subset of your social or business circle think you’re a paranoid weirdo, then Criptext is an easy and effective solution. If you’re sending non-sensitive emails to your grandma, you’re better off sending regular messages to prevent confusion. But if you want to get you and your friends and colleagues on board with a secure email solution today, Criptext is quick, easy, and free.

Give it a try and let me know what you think: Criptext – Unsend any email. Anytime.

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