We all have read of executives embarrassed to have said one thing only to have it revealed later that they wrote something quite different in their emails. Yet there are several email systems that could have saved them. We tried one from VaporStream.com.

VaporStream is like an unrecorded phone conversation; once you hang up, the conversation is gone. In this case your email disappears after you send it and the recipient has opened it. Messages cannot be saved, copied or forwarded because they are simply no longer there on the computer.  One catch: Both parties have to be VaporStream users.

This is different from systems that encrypt messages that then disappear after a set time. The danger there is that anything encrypted can be unencrypted, and such messages rarely disappear completely from all computer systems, even after the supposed deadline.

At $7.50 a month, VaporStream is not cheap, but it could save someone litigation. Some estimates claim that one in five outgoing emails contain content that poses a potential legal, financial or regulatory risk for a business and its employees.

Another approach is that taken by Voltage Security Network: First you download a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook orvoltage Outlook Express. When you want to send an encrypted message, click the “send secure” button. The recipient is prompted to reply using a “secure” link. (They don’t have to own the Voltage software.) The messages exist only in your “sent” folder and the recipient’s inbox, not on Voltage’s servers. This has an obvious problem: The messages may not exist on the email provider’s servers, but what if the cops come in and seize your computers?

Voltage Security, at voltage.com/vsn, has a one-time cost of $65; there is a free trial.

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