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"I called Google co-founder Sergey Brin about this and got a half-encouraging response. Gmail's ad server, he says, doesn't collect any info on which ads it serves to which specific users, nor does it record users' browser cookies or IP addresses. There's a twofold benefit to that. Advertisers can't get reports on who saw what, Brin says, and Google won't have personal data about your ad viewing to hand over to the Man, should a subpoena or warrant be served."
Mr. Boutin got snookered by Sergey.
1. The ad server is distinct from the email server, so whatever Sergey Brin says about the ad server does not apply to the email server.
3. Mr. Boutin didn't even mention the fact that Google has no data retention policy for deleted email, or for email on a closed account. How long will these emails be accessible? I don't care if they're on clusters somewhere on some hard disk. What I care about is whether they're accessible by anyone or anything at Google. This a primarily a matter of corporate policy, and only secondarily a technical issue.
Sergey set up a straw man and then Mr. Boutin tried, unsuccessfully, to knock him down.
Which is no different than any other email service, free or paid.