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This e-mail message will self-destruct in ...

Jennifer Kavur | June 3, 2010
Technology that promises highly secure, confidential and self-destructing messages over the Internet isn't only available to top secret intelligence agents.

But VaporStream is designed to compliment, not eliminate, e-mail. VaporStream takes the non-important conversations out while still allowing those conversations to take place, he said.

The value isn't so much about up front e-mail costs but what happens to a corporation when it goes through a legal situation, he said. And by lowering the overall volume of e-mail within an organization, VaporStream reduces costs related to litigation, he said.

"Once you get sued, the cost of e-discovery is unbelievably expensive and the cost is really how much information do you have to go through," said Collins.

VaporStream also provides a convenient way to conduct private conversations without "the burden of big encryption layers," he said. The company targets health-care providers in the U.S., for example, which are required by law to communicate in a secure, private manner for patient confidentiality reasons, he said.

The technology might appeal to Canadians for the same reason. "Canada has much higher standards of privacy than the United States, especially for corporations," he said.

Organizations required by law to provide privacy to their employees can use the service as a private channel for messaging and allow employees to separate personal matters from corporate business records, he said.

"As long as you know without a doubt that you are in the regulatory clear, you could use a system like this," said Tim Hickernell, lead research analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. But "companies need to be very careful with this," he added.

VaporStream could be very useful for top-secret pharmaceutical research teams or for military battlefield purposes, but the average organization "could get themselves into trouble very quickly with this technology," said Hickernell.

"I'm worried about the average organization who might think this is the way to get around litigation," he said. "Just because you are destroying the record of a conversation does not mean there are no legal requirements for you to record decision-making processes," he said.

VaporStream walks a "very fine line" with their messaging and how they are positioning the technology, according to Hickernell. "What disturbs me about this is they seem to be positioning it as if you're kind of sneaking around requirements," he said.

Hickernell recommended enterprises that need to have non-recorded discussions use Web conferencing instead, if meetings in one room don't work. "The ideal place to be having these types of conversations is with a real-time collaboration product, not an asynchronous collaboration product at all," he said.

"The problem to me is not that e-mail is unsecure. The problem is that these kinds of conversations got shifted to asynchronous channels and they shouldn't be. They should be occurring in real time with real-time collaboration," he said.


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