Bug in Gmail Message Time?

Every so often I come across a user experience that is most likely a bug but could also possibly be by design. Here’s a good example. I often write myself emails through Gmail to serve as future reminders. Essentially overloading e-mail and leveraging it as a todo list. After sending myself an email from my laptop this evening, I noticed that Gmail told me that I sent the email 3 minutes ago – even though I had just sent the email. After some investigation, I saw that Gmail uses two different data sources to figure out when an email was written and how long ago it was written. Let’s take a look with a sample email: 

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As can be seen in the second image above, 7:54 PM is based on the actual and correct time (according to Google’s servers) as to when the email was written. “3 minutes ago” turns out to be based on my computer’s internal clock. This can be easily reproduced by opening up the settings in OS X and changing the computer time to some time different than the correct time. 

Page/Session Time Out: PG&E vs. Star One

Here’s the PG&E treatment for a web session time out:

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What I don’t like is that this is being done in a layer and the main page is still visible behind the layer. The main reasons the site is doing a session timeout is for the user’s security and privacy. With this treatment, the privacy aspect is not protected at all. Any new user who shows up to the computer, can see what the previous user was doing behind the layer. In terms of security, while the layer may protect any new malicious users from going into the original user’s account, leaving behind access to the original user’s account number is a security hole.

A better way to do it is to paint a new “timeout” page:

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Or in the case of Bank of America, paint an interstitial temporary “you are about to timeout” page. Then redirect the user to the home page.