Going 'Off the Record' With Google Chat

Q: An old conversation that I had on Google Chat recently came back to haunt me. Is there a way to make sure particular chats are never archived?

GoogleTalk.jpgA: You could make an argument that, in the office, Google Chat, a feature incorporated into your Google Mail account, might be more important than email. It allows you to communicate instantaneously with people inside of the office and out in quick bursts, the way you might face-to-face, instead of firing off multiple back-and-forth e-mails. And, by default, those chat messages are stored and indexed in your account so that they can be searched with the same reliability and efficiency as your Gmail itself. (Just click on "Chats" in the left-hand sidebar to visit your history.) Like your email, the chats can also be forwarded, printed or deleted.

If you find that you're often going in and deleting chat messages, though, or find that you never need to search through your history, you might consider changing the settings in your account so that none of your messages are ever archived. (Visit "Settings" and then click "Chat.")

There's one other option: You can leave your default settings so that all of your chat messages are archived and then manually go "off the record" when you find that you're having a conversation you'd rather not revisit in the future. When you open a chat, just click on the prompt that asks if you'd like to go off the record. Once this option is selected, the default will be modified so that all future conversations with that particular person are kept out of both your and his or her account. 

"We've designed this to be a socially-negotiated setting because we want to give users full disclosure and control over whether the person they're talking to can save their chat," Google explained on an FAQ page.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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