The silly privacy fears about Google's e-mail service

Tuesday, 20 April 2004, 12:14 AM EST

On April 1 Gmail was announced, a Googleized alternative to the free Web-based e-mail services offered by Hotmail, Yahoo!, and a slew of smaller companies. Depending on your take, Gmail is either too good to be true, or it's the height of corporate arrogance, especially coming from a company whose house motto is "Don't Be Evil."

At first, Web hipsters dismissed Gmail as an April Fool's hoax. But Google's offer is real. Gmail will provide each user an entire gigabyte of free e-mail storage. That's about 250 times the 4-megabyte limit of a basic Yahoo! Mail account and 10 times Hotmail's 100-megabyte "super-user" package, which costs $60 a year. In return for all that inbox space, Google wants just one favor: to be allowed to scan the content of your incoming messages and serve content-targeted ads alongside them.

By Paul Boutin at Slate.

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