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Google Gets Marketing Mileage Out Of L.A. City's Move To Its Email System

The city might be spending more of your money to switch to what is essentially a free email system, but multi-billion-dollar corporate giant Google is getting plenty from the deal: The company on Monday used L.A.'s switch to its email services as a marketing point, touting the move on its corporate blog:

"Today we'd like to officially welcome another customer to the mix," states Google: "the City of Los Angeles."

We made some waves in November by pointing out that the switch, touted as a cost-saving measure despite security concerns about Google's longstanding policy of scanning email for targeted advertising, would actually cost the city $1.5 million more in the first year as opposed to staying its its old, in-house server system.

The extra cash was part of a $7.2 million deal with Computer Sciences Corp. to help users migrate from the old system to the new one, a process some critics questioned because most users of Google's "cloud"-based Gmail learn by doing -- again, for free.

However, Randi Levin, the city's chief technology officer, was kind enough to shill for Google and endorse the corporate behemoth's products in a post on Google's own corporate blog. (Nice of the city to put taxpayer dollars to such good use; lord knows what we really need is to have city employees spending more time writing ad copy for underprivileged corporations). Levin argues the move to Google will ultimately save money: For example, switching to Google's servers will save electricity that would have been used to power the city's own servers.

" ... Moving to Google will free up nearly 100 servers that were used for our existing email system, which will lower our electricity bills by almost $750,000 over five years," Levin writes. "In short, this decision helps us to get the most out of the city's IT budget."

The public rarely gets this level of insight on the city's own website. There's even a YouTube video from Levin. Can you imagine a world in which city officials explained all their decisions with such transparency? We should be so lucky.

In the meantime, we'll be watching, and Googling.

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