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Facebook To Implement New ID Measures For Election Ad Buyers

February 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc will begin relying on postcards sent by U.S. mail later this year to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site, a senior company executive said on Saturday.

The postcard verification is Facebook’s latest effort to respond to criticism from lawmakers, security experts, and election integrity watchdog groups that it and other social media companies failed to detect and later responded slowly to Russia’s use of their platforms to spread divisive political content, including disinformation, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Facebook revealed the plans a day after U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed an indictment accusing 13 Russians and three Russian companies of conducting a criminal and espionage conspiracy using social media to interfere in the election by boosting Republican Donald Trump and denigrating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The process of using postcards containing a specific code will be required for advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office, Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global director of policy programs, said. The requirement will not apply to issue-based political ads, she said.

“If you run an ad mentioning a candidate, we are going to mail you a postcard and you will have to use that code to prove you are in the United States,” Harbath said at a weekend conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State, where executives from Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google also spoke.

“It won’t solve everything,” Harbath said in a brief interview with Reuters following her remarks.

But sending codes through old-fashioned mail was the most effective method the tech company could come up with to prevent Russians and other bad actors from purchasing ads while posing as someone else, Harbath said.

Foreign nationals are prohibited under U.S. law from contributing or donating money or anything else of value or making any expenditure in connection with any federal, state or local election in the United States.

The indictment released on Friday laid out in specific detail how prosecutors believe Russians adopted false online personas to push divisive political content, including ads. The Russians also allegedly posed as Americans to stage political rallies in the United States and persuade real Americans to engage in pro-Trump activities.

Harbath did not say when Facebook would begin relying on postcard codes, but said they would be in use before this year’s mid-term congressional elections in November.

A Facebook spokesman declined to provide further details on the plan, but referred to a company blog post from last October announcing plans to roll out more robust identification verification measures for political advertisers.

That blog post did not specify what the verification process would entail.

Google Discontinue ‘View Images’ Feature In Searches

February 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has nixed its “view image” button following criticism from Getty Images.

In 2016, the stock- and news-photo service complained to the European Commission that Google’s image search made it too easy for people to find and use images from Getty without proper attribution.

In response and as part of a new agreement between the two companies announced last week, Google has made it harder to save pictures from the search engine by removing certain features, including a button that allows people to view an image in isolation and a “search by image” button.

“Today we’re launching some changes on Google Images to help connect users and useful websites. This will include removing the View Image button. The Visit button remains, so users can see images in the context of the web pages they’re on,” Google’s said.

However, not everyone is okay with the tweak, and many are using Twitter to vent their anger.

Getty, by contrast, is relieved. “This agreement between Getty Images and Google sets the stage for a very productive, collaborative relationship between our companies,” Dawn Airey, CEO of Getty Images, said in a statement.

Nokia And Qualcomm 5G Trials Moving In The Right Direction

February 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nokia and Qualcomm have completed interoperability testing in the 3.5Ghz and 28Ghz spectrum compliant with the global 3GPP 5G NR Release 15 standard using the commercially available Nokia AirScale base station and device prototypes from Qualcomm Technologies.

Focusing on the commercialization of 5G technology, with New Radio as its foundation, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies testing at Nokia’s 5G center of excellence in Oulu, Finland, will provide the basis for 5G NR field trials with operators in 2018.

Nokia, Qualcomm Technologies and operators* including BT/EE, Deutsche Telekom, Elisa, KT, LGU+, NTT DOCOMO, Optus, SKT, Telia and Vodafone Group are already committed to working together in verifying and trialing 5G NR technology. This will be based on the successful interoperability tests of the flexible 5G NR interface from Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies which will support a wide array of 5G services and various deployment scenarios.

In line with Qualcomm Technologies and Nokia’s announcement in September 2017 to collaborate on 5G NR and with the success of these recent tests, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies continue working closely in driving the industry, leading to wide-scale 5G deployments in 2019 based on 3GPP standard-compliant 5G infrastructure and devices. This will enable timely commercial network launches in 2019, in particular in the United States, China, Japan, Korea and Europe.

Marc Rouanne, president of mobile networks, Nokia said: “These tests by Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies are important to the progress of 5G. Importantly, they demonstrate how we have quickly applied the 3GPP Release 15 specifications that were set in December and using our AirScale base station – which has been shipped to more than 100 customers – together with a prototype Qualcomm Technologies UE. Now, we can look forward to commencing standards-based, over-the-air 5G NR trials with operators.”

Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm Incorporated, said, “The successful completion of an end-to-end interoperable connection based on the global 5G NR standard is a significant step on the path to launching 5G NR commercial networks and devices starting in 2019. We look forward to furthering collaboration on standard-compliant field trials with Nokia and global operators on the path to commercialisation.”

Courtesy-Fud

Twitter Tamps Down Rumors Of Being Acquired

February 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

 Twitter Inc Chief Executive Jack Dorsey stated that he sees value in the social media network remaining an independent company, tamping down recent speculation by analysts that it could be an acquisition target.

“I’ve always thought that there’s a lot of strength to our independence. We can work on every device. We can work through any medium,” Dorsey said in a response to a question at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference.

Some investment analysts reignited talk of a potential Twitter deal last week when Twitter reported a surprising rise in revenue and its first quarterly profit.

 The Walt Disney Co. expressed interest in 2016, though at the time Twitter shares were trading at about half the current price, meaning an acquisition by anyone would be much more expensive than two years ago.

Shares in Twitter closed at $33.44 on Tuesday, up 8 percent against a 0.3 percent rise in the S&P 500 Index. Dorsey’s comments came after the closing bell, and shares were unchanged afterward.

Facebook Illegally Collecting Personal Data, Says German Court

February 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A German consumer rights group revealed that a court had found Facebook’s use of personal data to be illegal because the U.S. social media platform did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users.

The verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online advertising.

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzvb) said that Facebook’s default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law and that the court had found parts of the consent to data usage to be invalid.

“Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register,” said Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the vzvb.

“This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.” The vzvb posted a copy of the ruling on its website. A court spokesperson confirmed that a judgment had been handed down but declined further comment.

Facebook said it would appeal, even though several aspects of the court judgment had been in its favor. In a statement, it said it had already made significant changes to its terms of service and data protection guidelines since the case was first brought in 2015.

“We are working hard to ensure that our guidelines are clear and easy to understand and that the services offered by Facebook are in full accordance with the law,” Facebook said.

Further, Facebook would in the meantime update its data protection guidelines and its terms of service so that they comply with new European Union-wide rules that are due to enter force in June.

Facebook, which counts more than 2 billion users worldwide, already faces scrutiny from Germany’s competition authorities over its handling of its users’ personal data.

Snap Chat User Base Grows, Shares Soar

February 7, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc surprised investors with a rebound in user growth for its Snapchat messaging app, showing resilience amid competition with Facebook Inc’s Instagram and sending shares up nearly 30 percent.

Paired with higher-than-expected revenue and improved margins, the user growth signaled loss-making Snap could be turning a corner as it grapples with other social media companies adding Snapchat-like features, analysts said.

Snapchat’s daily active users rose to 187 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31 from 178 million in the third quarter, beating analysts’ average expectation of 184.2 million users, according to financial data and analytics firm FactSet.

Daily active users rose 18 percent from a year earlier, reversing a trend of slowing growth. The figure is closely watched by investors who hope user growth can be translated into advertising revenue.

Chief Executive Evan Spiegel credited improvements to the version of Snapchat that runs on Android phones, saying the retention rate of new Android users rose by nearly 20 percent compared to a year earlier

“Our business really came together towards the end of last year,” Spiegel said in remarks prepared for a conference call with analysts.

Shares traded at $17.73 after the bell, up 26 percent after trading even higher earlier. They had not traded above Snap’s initial public offering price of $17 since July 10.

“This was a monster quarter relative to bearish expectations,” analyst Daniel Ives of GBH Insights said, cautioning however that “competitive headwinds abound with Instagram front and center.”

Nearly a year after Snap’s March IPO, analysts and investors have been watching to see if Snap can boost user growth amid competition from larger rival Instagram, which has added photo filters and other Snapchat-mimicking features.

To make its app more friendly to users and advertisers, Snap launched a redesigned app in November, splitting “friends” from content feeds.

The Venice, California-based company posted a net loss of $350 million, or 28 cents per share, compared to a loss of $170 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier. It was Snap’s fourth quarterly earnings as a public company.

 

YouTube Go App Has Worldwide Ambitions

February 2, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The app is part of YouTube’s rivalry with Facebook, as the two giants race to lure video viewers in regions where mobile internet is more of a luxury.

YouTube’s data-light app YouTube Go, now in 15 countries, will expand to more than 130 nations, the company said in a recent blog post.

Launched first in India last year, the YouTube Go app is designed to work with little to no connectivity, use less data and make recommendations more tailored to where you live.

YouTube Go is also a crucial competitive move against rivals like Facebook. Both Facebook and Google’s YouTube have amassed billions of users across the world. Now they face the challenge of recruiting new members in places where mobile internet can be hard to come by or expensive. As Facebook campaigns to swipe more video viewing away from YouTube, both companies are jockeying to lure in consumers in emerging economies, and those viewers are more likely to shy away from a data-draining format like video.

Facebook, for example, started an initiative called Free Basics, which provided no-cost free access to Facebook and several other approved services. The venture, however, ran into backlash for potentially setting up a two-tier Internet that would divide the rich and the poor.

Since YouTube Go’s launch in India, Google’s service has widened to 14 more countries, including Indonesia, Nigeria and Thailand. “We’re excited to expand YouTube Go to over 130 countries around the globe starting today,” YouTube product manager Jay Akkad said Thursday in YouTube’s blog post.

YouTube also touted some feel-good examples of how YouTube Go has been used. A startup in Indonesia uses it to equip women with financial skills to start and run small businesses, and a primary-school teacher for low-income children in Lagos, Nigeria, says it gives her videos that help teach math and other lessons.

The company also noted it has made some design changes to YouTube Go. It’s given viewers more control over the quality that they stream or download and made it easier to share multiple videos at once or share from the home page. The app also introduced a feature to refresh its home screen with new personalized content with a pull-down of the screen.

Facebook To Focus On Promoting Local News

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the social media website would focus on promoting local news in its latest update.

“We’re going to show more stories from news sources in your local town or city,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. “If you follow a local publisher or if someone shares a local story, it may show up higher in News Feed.”

The update will be first rolled out in the United States and expanded to more countries later this year, Zuckerberg said.

The company has been making a series of changes to its website, following criticism that its algorithms may have prioritized misleading news and misinformation in people’s feeds, influencing the 2016 American presidential election as well as political discourse in other countries.

The company recently adjusted its centerpiece News Feed to prioritize what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands.

The move had worried investors, who feared that the changes would lead people to spend less time on Facebook.

Facebook Acquires ID Software Company Confirm

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is acquiring a software firm that specializes in authenticating government-issued identification cards, the two companies said on Tuesday, a step that may help the social media company learn more about the people who buy ads on its network.

U.S. lawmakers have expressed alarm at Facebook’s limited ability to know who is buying advertisements, including election-related ads, on the world’s largest social network.

Boston-based Confirm Inc, which is privately held, said on its website that the acquisition was the culmination of three years of work to build technology to keep people safe online.

Facebook said in a statement Confirm’s “technology and expertise will support our ongoing efforts to keep our community safe.”

Terms of the deal and how Facebook would apply Confirm’s software were not revealed.

Confirm will wind down its operations and its employees will join Facebook in Boston, a person familiar with the acquisition told Reuters.

Confirm’s website listed 26 employees earlier this month, according to a version archived by the Google search engine. It says on its website that it has more than 750 clients.

Last year, Facebook said that suspected Russian agents had been paying to boost Facebook posts in the United States in an attempt to divide the electorate around the 2016 presidential election. Moscow denies the allegations.

he company later said it would begin requiring organizations running election-related ads to confirm their identities.

Facebook has more than 6 million different advertisers, and buying ads has historically required little more than a Facebook page and a credit card.

Confirm says that its software allows for proof of identity for online transactions, allowing users to detect potentially fraudulent activity.

Moelis & Co and Goodwin Procter advised Confirm on the transaction. Hogan Lovells advised Facebook.

Twitter Loses A Key Executive To Startup

January 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter’s chief operating officer, Anthony Noto,  has decided to leave to become the CEO of financial startup SoFi.

Noto, one of Twitter’s most vocal executives, joined the social network in 2014.

“Anthony has been an incredible advocate for Twitter and a trusted partner to me and our leadership team,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement Tuesday.

Noto was instrumental in Twitter’s big push for live video on the platform, including a deal to stream NFL Thursday Night Football games in 2016. His departure, which comes a little more than two weeks before Twitter announces its earnings on Feb. 8, is yet another shake-up in the company’s executive ranks. Noto replaced former chief operating officer Adam Bain, who left in late 2016 after six years with the company.

Noto came to Twitter from Goldman Sachs as the social network was preparing to go public in 2014.

Twitter is also facing many other challenges, not just on its executive front. The company faces increasing scrutiny from Congress over the way the social network was used by Russian propagandists during the divisive 2016 US presidential election. Twitter said last week that Russian meddling was more widespread than it initially estimated and that it plans to notify more than 600,000 of its users in the US who liked or retweeted messages from Russian-linked accounts.

Noto is slated to become SoFi CEO on March 1, when interim CEO Tom Hutton will become a non-executive chairman of the board.

It will be hard for the company to replace Noto, who basically ran Twitter’s day-to-day operations, said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. The company still has to overcome stagnant user growth —  it’s been hovering around 330 million users — as other social networks, like Facebook with its 2 billion users, continue to flourish.

“You have a public company that has a known, popular brand in the mainstream that’s used heavily by a certain president and monitored by the media, but they still haven’t been able to truly capitalize on it,” Blau said. “It’s going to be interesting to see who wants to take [Noto’s] position.”

Twitter said Noto’s responsibilities within its business and revenue operations will be assumed by other members of the leadership team.

Shares of Twitter were down as much 3 percent Tuesday in early market trading.

Noto said in a statement he appreciated his time at Twitter.

Facebook Introduces A New Way To Count Time

January 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

If Facebook has anything to say about it, maybe the next time you want your friend to hold the door for a second, you’ll say, “Hang on for 705,600,000 flicks.”

Well, OK, you probably won’t. But you could, because Facebook introduced a new unit of time on Monday called the flick. The company thinks it’ll be useful for programmers if not for talking to your pal while you run back for your keys.

Different cultures disagree about whether recipes use cups or grams or whether your car odometer counts miles or kilometers, but humanity has settled on the second as the universal unit to measure time. Facebook’s new tick-tock technique, though, is geared for people who deal in inconvenient slivers of a second.

Why? Because programmers have to deal with things like phone and laptop screens that refresh frequently, with fractions of a second that make math unpleasant.

If this all seems like worrisome complexity in your life, just relax, take off your watch and try not to remember that a second is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of a microwave radio signal tuned to get cesium-133 atoms to resonate.

Here’s an example of why flicks are useful in video game programming. In a game that displays at 60 frames per second, software gets a time budget of 16.667 milliseconds (rounded to the nearest microsecond) to figure out how to paint thousands of pixels worth of moving aliens, race tracks, tanks or trolls onto the screen. It’s not just games: web browsers, word processors and other software need to pay attention to these slices of time to make sure scrolling and animations stay smooth.

But it’s a pain talking about 16.667 milliseconds, and even with slivers of time a billionth of a second long, programs can suffer from rounding errors. The flick is a 1/705,600,000th of a second, which Facebook concluded is a nice foundation for many different measurements. For 60-frame-per-second refresh rates, for example, a computer has 11,760,000 flicks to create each new screen frame.

Flicks are useful round numbers even with the much shorter slivers of time, too. For high-end audio, which measures varying sound levels every 1/192,000th of a second, that duration is 3,675 flicks.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to handle the supremely awkward video standard of 29.97fps. But there is a mathematical kludge: it’s 30 times 1000/1001. If this all sounds like a solution to your problem, you can download Facebook’s open-source software for counting in flicks from Github.

Google and China’s Tencent Agree On Patent Deal

January 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google has agreed to a patent licensing agreement with Tencent Holdings Ltd as it seeks ways to expand in China where many of its products, such as app store, search engine, and email service, are blocked by regulators.

The U.S. technology company has signed similar agreements before with Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and Cisco Systems Inc, but the deal with Tencent is a first with a large Chinese tech firm.

 Google has previously said that agreements such as these reduce the potential of litigation over patent infringement.
 The agreement with the Chinese social media and gaming firm Tencent covers a broad range of products and paves the way for collaboration on technology in the future, Google said on Friday, without disclosing any financial terms of the deal.

Tencent oversees China’s top social media and payments app, WeChat, which has close to a billion users. It also oversees one of the country’s most popular app stores and hosts the country’s biggest gaming and livestream platforms.

Google did not disclose the scope of the new patent deal and Tencent did not immediately respond to questions about which products the patent agreement will cover.

“By working together on agreements such as this, tech companies can focus on building better products and services for their users,” said Mike Lee, Google’s head of patents.

Over the past year, Google has indicated that it was looking to increase it presence in the restrictive Chinese market, with the launch of a local AI research lab, introduction of a version of its translation app and expansion into new cities.

The company announced this month that it had invested in Chinese livestream gaming app Chushou, which is similar to Google’s own YouTube game livestreaming services.

In December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke at a conference in China hosted by the Cyberspace Administration of China, which oversees censorship in the country.

Brave Browser To Give Out $1M In Crytocurrency

January 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Browser maker Brave is doling out about $1 million worth of cryptocurrency-backed tokens it hopes will help develop a better online advertising system.

Brave developed a technology called the Basic Attention Token (BAT) designed to pay publishers, YouTube contributors and others who today rely on advertising revenue or subscription payments. For now, you can set up Brave to send BATs to websites you visit, but in the future, Brave plans to make BATs a currency for online ads.

To get the tokens, you have to be one of the 200,000 or so people who install or run the latest personal computer version of the browser and accept the grant of BAT. With more than a million Brave users each month (a tiny fraction of better-established browsers), you aren’t guaranteed one of the $5 freebies, but Brave plans more promotional grants.

Brave, led by Mozilla and Firefox co-founder Brendan Eich, is part of a movement to make browsers more assertive on our behalf. Brave blocks ads and ad trackers by default, which can make websites load faster, save your battery, cut your data usage, keep your online behavior out of advertisers’ hands and even protect against malware. Chrome, Safari and Firefox are all taking various measures to rein in ads, though none go as far as Brave.

Nuking ads is gratifying if you find them intrusive, but of course, ads also pay the bills at websites large and small. Would you pay $10 a month to use an ad-free Facebook?

Brave isn’t out to destroy online advertising, though — only to replace today’s system, in which the browser itself targets the ads toward your interests without sharing private details with anyone else. It hasn’t begun showing ads yet.

To distribute BATs to publishers you might want to help fund, you can buy them online — or accept a promotional grant like Wednesday’s from Brave. The company set aside 300 million of them in a “user growth pool” to lure individuals, advertisers and publishers into the BAT ad economy. But unusually for online ad tech, Brave will give you a cut of the online ad revenue, too.

You can’t convert BATs into bucks unless you’re a publisher, though. So don’t expect to cash in directly from Brave’s BAT promotion.

Its system is powered by the technology of cryptocurrency — specifically by the Ethereum Project’s ether. Casual users don’t need to know the inner workings. Brave can take the BAT you’ve earned from online ads and distribute it to websites and publishers automatically depending on how often you visit various sites. More than 2,500 websites so far have signed up to receive BAT payments.

YouTube stars also can sign up to receive BAT payments — something could be of interest given YouTube’s tightening rules for who can get ad revenue — and Brave plans to expand to those who post videos on the Twitch game-watching site, too. So far more than 1,400 YouTube publishers have signed up to receive BAT. It’s not yet clear how much revenue they’ll receive from the 310,000 or so people who use the PC version of the browser, but as ad blocking spreads, BAT payments could help offset lost ad revenue.

Facebook Joins Forces With Xiaomi To Launch The Oculus In China

January 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Computing

Facebook’s Oculus has announced that is partnering with Chinese phone maker Xiaomi Technology in a deal to manufacture its new virtual reality headset.

Xiaomi has agreed to manufacture Oculus’s new headset, the Oculus Go, which was announced in October 2017.

As part of the deal Oculus has agreed to launch the Mi VR Standalone, a version of the headset exclusive to the Chinese market built with Oculus technology. Oculus has not detailed how the Mi VR Standalone will differ from Oculus Go, but said it will share the same core hardware features and design.

Oculus also revealed it is working with Qualcomm Inc. and will use the company’s Snapdragon 821 chipsets to power the mobile VR headset.

“We’ve worked closely with Qualcomm to deliver the highest possible level of performance to meet the high computing demands of the standalone VR product category,” said Oculus in a blog post.

The Oculus Go us set to release early this year, priced at $199.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Android Games Tracks Users Viewing Habits

January 9, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net, Consumer Electronics

Yet another privacy violation has been found alive and well in the Google Play Store.

The New York Times reports that “hundreds” of apps are embedding a revenue stream-creating package called Alphonso that uses your smartphone microphone to track your TV viewing habits.

Games like ‘Pool 3D’, ‘Beer Pong: Trickshot‘, ‘Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin‘ and ‘Honey Quest‘ seem like innocent games but, in fact, have a secret agenda.

Now it’s important to emphasise that you have to actively give permission for an app to use your microphone in the first place, but so often we say ‘yes’ to that sort of thing when we don’t really know the consequences.

In this case, the NYT explains: “Using a smartphone’s microphone, Alphonso’s software can detail what people watch by identifying audio signals in TV ads and shows, sometimes even matching that information with the places people visit and the movies they see.”

It’s a similar principle to Shazam, but without explicit permission. Plus it’s going to be kicking your battery life into submission we imagine.

However, Alphonso does have a deal with Shazam that means that when you Shazam something, the data is sent to Alphonso for analysis.

Alphonso says it does not record human speech, and that it only works with permission from the end user – but that permission needs only to be granted once.

“The consumer is opting in knowingly and can opt out anytime,” explains Ashish Cordia, CEO of Alphonso. The company declined to say just how many apps (some of which are on the Apple Store too) are being used, or which ones.

It also added that it didn’t approve of the kit being used in apps made for children, but this hasn’t stopped developers incorporating it anyway.

Apps like this often use embedded sounds hidden out of range in the TV signal which trigger the apps to record. This data can then be used by advertisers to set rates.

It’s all rather grim and creepy if we’re honest. But that’s just the way the world works now, seemingly. Pass the tinfoil.

Google has promised to improve warnings in the event that apps are harvesting data, whether the app is from inside or outside the Play Store.

Courtesy-Fud

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