Google’s Pivot Away From Bank Accounts Shows Why Finance Is A Tough Industry For Tech Giants

At least one tech giant has decided it’s better to serve banks rather than taking them head on. Google is shuttering its bank account product nearly two years after announcing ambitious plans to take on the retail finance industry. One key factor: The new head of the business, Bill Ready, decided that he’d rather develop a digital banking and payments ecosystem instead of competing with banks, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.

For the past few years, bank executives and investors have shuddered whenever a tech giant disclosed plans to break into finance. With good reason: Tech giants have access to hundreds of millions of users and their data and a track record for transforming industries like media and advertising.

But the reality has proven less disruptive so far. While Amazon was reportedly exploring bank accounts in 2018, the project has yet to materialize. Uber reined in its fintech ambitions last year. Facebook was forced to rebrand its crypto project amid a series of setbacks.

“We’re updating our approach to focus primarily on delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than us serving as the provider of these services,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.

Google, which is owned by parent company Alphabet, could help banks provide more secure ways for consumers to make online purchases like via virtual cards or single-use tokens. That’s according to the person with knowledge of the company who declined to be identified speaking about business strategy. Those methods cut down on fraud by protecting users’ credit-card numbers.

Google may have ultimately decided it wasn’t worth antagonizing current and prospective customers for its various businesses, including cloud computing, according to a Friday research note from Wells Fargo banking analyst Mike Mayo.

In recent years, Google has funneled more resources to its cloud business, which still lags behind Amazon and Microsoft in market share. However, it has made steady gains under cloud boss Thomas Kurian, who, along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, has repeatedly touted financial services as a target in terms of customers they hope to attract.

“Banks are worried about disintermediation, and I think it’s likely that Google executives were getting signals that banks weren’t on board with what Google was going to do,” said Peter Wannemacher, a Forrester Research analyst who advises banks on digital efforts. “They made the bet that there was a greater gain in selling to banks rather than selling to customers.”

Being the customer-facing entity for banks may have risked inviting greater regulatory and Congressional scrutiny, he said. As it is, the public has already become suspicious of technology firms’ reach, he added.

“Financial services is a difficult space to get into,” Wannemacher said. “Everyone knows that, but it’s often more vexing and knotty than people expect.”

By: Hugh Son & Jennifer Elias

Source: Google’s pivot away from bank accounts shows why finance is a tough industry for tech giants

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Government Secretly Orders Google To Identify Anyone Who Searched A Sexual Assault Victim’s Name, Address Or Telephone Number

The U.S. government is secretly ordering Google to provide data on anyone typing in certain search terms, an accidentally unsealed court document shows. There are fears such “keyword warrants” threaten to implicate innocent Web users in serious crimes and are more common than previously thought.

In 2019, federal investigators in Wisconsin were hunting men they believed had participated in the trafficking and sexual abuse of a minor. She had gone missing that year but had emerged claiming to have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted, according to a search warrant reviewed by Forbes. In an attempt to chase down the perpetrators, investigators turned to Google, asking the tech giant to provide information on anyone who had searched for the victim’s name, two spellings of her mother’s name or her address over 16 days across the year. After being asked to provide all relevant Google accounts and IP addresses of those who made the searches, Google responded with data in mid-2020, though the court documents do not reveal how many users had their data sent to the government.

It’s a rare example of a so-called keyword warrant and, with the number of search terms included, the broadest on record. (See the update below for other, potentially even broader warrants.) Before this latest case, only two keyword warrants had been made public. One revealed in 2020 asked for anyone who had searched for the address of an arson victim who was a witness in the government’s racketeering case against singer R Kelly. Another, detailed in 2017, revealed that a Minnesota judge signed off on a warrant asking Google to provide information on anyone who searched a fraud victim’s name from within the city of Edina, where the crime took place.

While Google deals with thousands of such orders every year, the keyword warrant is one of the more contentious. In many cases, the government will already have a specific Google account that they want information on and have proof it’s linked to a crime. But search term orders are effectively fishing expeditions, hoping to ensnare possible suspects whose identities the government does not know. It’s not dissimilar to so-called geofence warrants, where investigators ask Google to provide information on anyone within the location of a crime scene at a given time.

“As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” a Google spokesperson said.

The latest case shows Google is continuing to comply with such controversial requests, despite concerns over their legality and the potential to implicate innocent people who happened to search for the relevant terms. From the government’s perspective in Wisconsin, the scope of the warrant should have been limited enough to avoid the latter: the number of people searching for the specific names, address or phone number in the given time frame was likely to be low. But privacy experts are concerned about the precedent set by such warrants and the potential for any such order to be a breach of Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches. There are also concerns about First Amendment freedom of speech issues, given the potential to cause anxiety amongst Google users that their identities could be handed to the government because of what they searched for.

“Trawling through Google’s search history database enables police to identify people merely based on what they might have been thinking about, for whatever reason, at some point in the past. This is a virtual dragnet through the public’s interests, beliefs, opinions, values and friendships, akin to mind reading powered by the Google time machine,” said Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “This never-before-possible technique threatens First Amendment interests and will inevitably sweep up innocent people, especially if the keyword terms are not unique and the time frame not precise. To make matters worse, police are currently doing this in secret, which insulates the practice from public debate and regulation.”

The Wisconsin case was supposed to have remained secret, too. The warrant only came to light because it was accidentally unsealed by the Justice Department in September. Forbes reviewed the document before it was sealed again and is neither publishing it nor providing full details of the case to protect the identities of the victim and her family. The investigation is ongoing, two years after the crimes occurred, and the DOJ didn’t comment on whether or not any charges had been filed.

Forbes was able to identify one other, previously unreported keyword warrant in the Northern District of California in December 2020, though its existence was only noted in a court docket. It also has the potential to be broad. The order, currently under seal, is titled “Application by the United States for a Search Warrant for Google Accounts Associated with Six Search Terms and Four Search Dates.”

There’s more that the government can get with such requests than simple Google account identities and IP addresses. In Wisconsin, the government was hopeful Google could also provide “CookieIDs” belonging to any users who made the searches. These CookieIDs “are identifiers that are used to group together all searches conducted from a given machine, for a certain time period. Such information allows investigators to ascertain, even when the user is not logged into a Google account, whether the same individual may have conducted multiple pertinent searches,” the government wrote.

There was another disturbing aspect to the search warrant: the government had published the kidnapping victim’s name, her Facebook profile (now no longer accessible), her phone number and address, a potential breach of a minor’s privacy. The government has now sealed the document, though was only alerted to the leak after Forbes emailed the Justice Department for comment. That mistake—of revealing the identity of minor victims of sexual abuse in court documents—has become a common one in recent years. As in the latest case, the FBI and DHS have been seen choosing pseudonyms and acronyms for victims, but then publishing their full Facebook profile link, which contains the name of the minor.

UPDATE: After publication, Jennifer Lynch, surveillance litigation director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), highlighted three other Google keyword warrants that were used in the investigation into serial Austin bombings in 2018, which resulted in the deaths of two people.

Not widely discussed at the time, the orders appear even broader than the one above, asking for IP addresses and Google account information of individuals who searched for various addresses and some terms associated with bomb making, such as “low explosives” and “pipe bomb.” Similar orders were served on Microsoft and Yahoo for their respective search engines.

As for what data the tech companies gave to investigators, that information remains under seal.

You can read the orders on Google here, here and here. The Microsoft and Yahoo orders can be found here and here. Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip

By: Thomas Brewster

I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’m also the editor of The Wiretap newsletter, which has exclusive stories on real-world surveillance and all the biggest cybersecurity stories of the week. It goes out every Monday and you can sign up here: https://www.forbes.com/newsletter/thewiretap

I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice, Wired and the BBC, amongst many others. 

Tip me on Signal / WhatsApp / whatever you like to use at +447782376697. If you use Threema, you can reach me at my ID: S2XY9B9U.

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“Sexual Offender Laws and Prevention of Sexual Violence or Recidivism”. American Journal of Public Health. 100 (3): 412–9. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.153254. PMC2820068. PMID20075329. See Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61 HA (3) s 61H(1) Crimes Act 1990 Crimes Act 1958 (VIC) Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA). Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA) Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) Criminal Code Act 1899 (QLD) Criminal Code 1924 (TAS) Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2005). Personal Safety Survey. Canberra: ABS Heath, M. (2005). The law and sexual offences against adults in Australia (Issues No. 4). Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault Lievore, D. (2005). Prosecutorial decisions in adult sexual assault cases. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 291, January. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology

“Sexual assault laws in Australia”. 27 February 2011. Archived from the original on 6 March 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017. Ryan v R [1967] HCA 2; 121 CLR 205 He Kaw Teh v R (1985) 157 CLR 523 R v Bilal Skaf [2005] NSWCCA 297,16 September 2005 R v Mohommed Skaf [2005] NSWCCA 298, 16 September 2005 Crimes Amendment (Aggravated Sexual Assault in Company) Act 2001 No 62 Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 NSW Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Victim Impact Statements) Act 2004 No 3

“Criminal Code”. Laws.justice.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 9 November 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2011. Mike Blanchfield (27 May 2011).

“Woman can’t consent to sex while unconscious, Supreme Court rules”. The Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 12 June 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2011. Barry, Garrett; Boone, Marilyn (24 February 2017).

“Protest follows not guilty verdict in RNC officer Doug Snelgrove sexual assault trial”. CBC News. CBC News. Archived from the original on 4 March 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2017. Demonstration held on court steps following verdict Mullaley, Rosie (23 February 2017).

“Case of police officer accused of sexual assault in jury’s hands”. The Telegram. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2017.

“Here’s why the issue of consent is not so clear in sexual assault cases”. The Canadian Press. Global News. 3 March 2017. Archived from the original on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2017.

“‘Consent is a very complex issue’: Lawyer looks at Snelgrove sexual assault trial”. CBC News. Canada: Yahoo!. 25 February 2017. Archived from the original on 4 March 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2017. “Kunarac, Vukovic and Kovac – Judgement – Part IV”. Icty.org. Archived from the original on 12 March 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2016. Bottke, Wilfried (1999). “Sexuality and Crime: The Victims of Sexual Offenses”. Buffalo Criminal Law Review. 3 (1): 293–315. doi:10.1525/nclr.1999.3.1.293. JSTOR10.1525/nclr.1999.3.1.293. “GERMAN CRIMINAL CODE”. Gesetze-im-internet.de. Archived from the original on 15 November 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2016. National SATU Guidelines Development Group. Rape/Sexual Assault: National Guidelines on Referral and Forensic Clinical Examination in Ireland. 3rd Edition; 2014. Available at http://www.hse.ie/satu

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Google Pushes to Overturn EU’s $5 Billion Antitrust Decision on Android

BRUSSELS— Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG -0.88% Google started its appeal Monday to overturn a $5 billion antitrust fine imposed by the European Union, contending that its Android operating system for mobile devices has boosted competition rather than foreclosing it.

The tech giant presented oral arguments in Luxembourg before the EU’s second-highest court, in its appeal to overturn the 2018 decision from the bloc’s antitrust enforcer. In that case, EU authorities found Google had illegally abused the market power of Android to push companies that manufacture and distribute Android phones into agreements aimed at entrenching and expanding the dominance of the Google search engine on mobile devices.

That decision was the largest of three antitrust fines totaling more than $9 billion that the EU has levied against Google in the past half decade. It also ordered changes to the distribution agreements buttressing one of the company’s biggest growth engines: search ads on mobile phones.

“Android has created more choice for everyone, not less,” a Google spokeswoman said. “This case isn’t supported by the facts or the law.”

A verdict isn’t expected for months, and it can be appealed to the EU’s top court, the Court of Justice. Still, the litigation is a new test for the EU’s competition and digital-policy chief, Margrethe Vestager, who already faces a pending appeal of an earlier decision against Google’s alleged abuse of the dominance of its search engine to favor its online-shopping ads.

Ms. Vestager has since opened a new antitrust probe into Google’s ad-tech business, along with a wave of cases exploring whether companies including Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. abuse their dominance to drive out smaller rivals. The companies deny wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission, the bloc’s top antitrust regulator, declined to comment.

While the appeal is under way, Google has had to comply with the decision, offering all users of new Android phones in the EU a choice screen of alternative search engines. But so far Google’s market share for search on mobile phones has remained relatively stable, according to Statcounter.

At issue in the hearing this week is whether Google’s Android is indeed dominant, as European regulators argue, and whether Google’s distribution deals for the operating system and its Google Play app store for Android were anticompetitive.

The Commission has argued that Google used those agreements to block the rise of potential competitors and secure the dominance of its cash cow search engine on mobile phones—an outcome far from assured at the time.

The Commission found Google had abused its control of the Android operating system by forcing phone makers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser if they also wanted to include Google’s Play store for apps, by far the most common way to get Android apps.

The Commission also found Google’s so-called antifragmentation agreements—deals that discourage official Android manufacturers from selling devices that run unofficial, modified versions of Android—illegally blocked the development and emergence of competing operating systems.

“Instead of an antifragmentation agreement, it should be called an anticompetition agreement,” said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer representing FairSearch, a group representing Oracle Inc. and other companies whose 2013 complaint led the Commission to open a formal case investigating Android in 2015.

Apple and Google have one of Silicon Valley’s most famous rivalries, but behind the scenes they maintain a deal worth $8 billion to $12 billion a year according to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit. Here’s how they came to depend on each other. Photo illustration: Jaden Urbi

Google argues that those analyses are flawed. It says Android devices must compete with Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and the Commission was wrong to largely exclude them from its analysis. The company argues that its antifragmentation agreements are necessary to keep Android phones compatible with apps, and aren’t a barrier to creating competing operating systems.

Google also says the allegation that it blocked competing apps is false because manufacturers typically install many rival apps on Android devices, and consumers can easily download others. The company says it has a right to recoup the money it spends developing Android, which it makes available free to manufacturers, by encouraging them to install Google Search, from which the company makes the bulk of its revenue.

Google and the Commission will be joined in this week’s arguments by nearly a dozen outside companies and trade groups that have filed their own supporting briefs in the case. Google’s supporters include the Computer & Communications Industry Association and two handset manufacturers.

Arguments on the Commission’s side will include some from German publisher groups and complainants in the case, including FairSearch.

By: Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com and Daniel Michaels at daniel.michaels@wsj.com

Source: Google Pushes to Overturn EU’s $5 Billion Antitrust Decision on Android – WSJ

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Google Hit With $593 Million Fine In France For Failing To Ink Deal With News Publishers

FRANCE-ECONOMY-TECHNOLOGY-VIVATECH

Google was hit with a $593 million (€500 Million) fine by antitrust regulators in France on Monday after the company failed to offer a fair deal to local publishers for hosting their news content on its platform, adding to the list of several large fines the U.S. tech giant has copped in Europe in the past few years.

The ruling comes after Google failed to comply with an April 2020 decision by the French regulators to negotiate a deal “in good faith” with publishers to carry snippets of their content on its Google News platform. As part of the ruling, the French Competition Authority has ordered Google to come up with an remuneration offer for its use of the news snippets within two months.

If the tech giant fails to meet the deadline, it will face penalty payments of up to $1 million (€900,000) per day of delay. In a statement shared with Forbes, Google said it was “very disappointed” with the ruling and it believes it had “acted in good faith throughout the entire process.” The company added that it is about to reach a global licensing agreement with the French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), but did not provide a timeline.

Google will be able to appeal Tuesday’s fine, but it is unclear if it will choose to do so.

Crucial Quote

“The sanction of 500 million euros takes into account the exceptional seriousness of the breaches observed and how Google’s behavior has led to further delay of the proper application of the law…which aimed to better take into account the value of content from publishers and news agencies included on the platforms,” Isabelle de Silva, president of the French Competition Authority said in an official statement.

Surprising Fact

Tuesday’s fine is the second-biggest antitrust penalty a single company has faced in France. Last year, the competition regulator hit Apple with a $1.2 billion fine after the company was found to have signed anti-competitive agreements with two distributors over the sale of non-iPhone products such as Apple Mac computers. Apple has appealed the ruling.

Key Background

Publishers in Europe have clashed with Google multiple times in the past year, accusing the tech giant of luring away billions of euros in advertising money from the publishers while leveraging their content. Particularly contentious has been the company’s Google News platform which hosts snippets of news stories from publishers without paying them. On the flipside, publishers are unable to yank their content from Google’s platform as they rely on it heavily to drive traffic to their sites.

Earlier this year, Google managed to reach a $76 million deal to pay a group of 121 French Newspapers. But the AFP and other French publishers who were not part of the deal expressed anger and slammed Google for being opaque. De Silva has dismissed that deal and criticized Google for limiting the scope of the negotiations, excluding agency content like photos, and offering to pay the same amount for news content that it does for dictionary listings or weather information.

Further Reading

Google Fined $593 Million By French Antitrust Agency (Bloomberg)

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018. Have a news tip? DMs are open on Twitter @SiladityaRay or drop me an email at siladitya@protonmail.com.

Source: Google Hit With $593 Million Fine In France For Failing To Ink Deal With News Publishers

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Critics:

Google said it was very disappointed with the decision but would comply. “Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers,” the U.S. tech giant said.

A Google spokesperson added: “We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms.”

The framework agreement, which many other French media outlets criticized, was one of the highest-profile deals under Google’s “News Showcase” programme to provide compensation for news snippets used in search results, and the first of its kind in Europe.

Google agreed to pay $76 million over three years to a group of 121 French news publishers to end the copyright row, documents seen by Reuters showed. It followed months of bargaining between Google, French publishers and news agencies over how to apply the revamped EU copyright rules, which allow publishers to demand a fee from online platforms showing extracts of their news. read more

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Google Maps Offensive Continues as Apple Begins Mapping New Regions

While Apple Maps is said to be a solid alternative to Google Maps, it’s not necessarily a secret that Apple’s app isn’t quite here yet. Especially outside of the United States, as Apple has often been extremely slow when it comes to rolling out new features for users who don’t live in the company’s home market.

Apple Maps, for example, has already received massive updates in the United States, including better maps and new features like traffic information with road signs and traffic light warnings, but this new experience continues to be available in limited markets.

But on the other hand, the iPhone maker is working tirelessly to expand Apple Maps to more markets, as the company itself knows it’s pretty much the only way to compete with Google Maps.

And more recently, Apple sent its fleet of Subaru Impreza used for data collection to Austria, with the mapping process due to start today. The company hasn’t shared any information on how long the entire process will take, but according to local media, Apple just wants to focus on vehicle-based data for now, so foot mapping wouldn’t take place. as part of this first step in the process.

This is probably a sign that Apple wants to improve the navigation component of its app, although time will tell how quickly the new data will be available to users in Austria.

The good news is that Apple is indeed making very good progress when it comes to expanding Apple Maps to more regions. Right now, this is one of the biggest shortcomings of using Apple Maps compared to alternatives like Google Maps, as the preloaded app on iPhones still lacks map data. updated and new features in many major markets.

Apple has yet to confirm Apple Maps’ expansion in Austria, but expect to see the company’s Subaru Imprezas on the streets of the country for several months.

After Apple hinted it was parting ways with Google Maps for its own proprietary system and application, Google is firing back, announcing it has new mapping technology ahead of Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. In an invite sent to press last week, Google promised to “show off some of the newest technology and give a sneak peak at upcoming features,” according to CNET.

No word yet on whether the mapping technology will be for Google’s Chrome browser or for android phones or both, but mobile support seems likely. Will Google’s new application include something similar to Apple’s powerful new 3-D mode, which, according to 9-to-5 Mac, boasts “beautiful, realistic graphics”? Stay tuned as Map Wars 2012 continues.

Source: Google Maps offensive continues as Apple begins mapping new regions – OLTNEWS

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Critics:

The Google Maps apps for iOS and Android have many of the same features, including turn-by-turn navigation, street view, and public transit information.Turn-by-turn navigation was originally announced by Google as a separate beta testing app exclusive to Android 2.0 devices in October 2009. The original standalone iOS version did not support the iPad, but tablet support was added with version 2.0 in July 2013. An update in June 2012 for Android devices added support for offline access to downloaded maps of certain regions, a feature that was eventually released for iOS devices, and made more robust on Android, in May 2014.

At the end of 2015 Google Maps announced its new offline functionality, but with various limitations – downloaded area cannot exceed 120,000 square kilometres and require a considerable amount of storage space. In January 2017, Google added a feature exclusively to Android that will, in some U.S. cities, indicate the level of difficulty in finding available parking spots, and on both Android and iOS, the app can, as of an April 2017 update, remember where users parked. In August 2017, Google Maps for Android was updated with new functionality to actively help the user in finding parking lots and garages close to a destination.

In December 2017, Google added a new two-wheeler mode to its Android app, designed for users in India, allowing for more accessibility in traffic conditions. In 2019 the android version introduced the new feature called live view that allows to view directions directly on the road thanks to augmented reality Google Maps won the 2020 Webby Award for Best User Interface in the category Apps, Mobile & Voice. In March 2021, Google added a feature in which user can draw missing roads.

In 2005 the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) complained about the potential for terrorists to use the satellite images in planning attacks, with specific reference to the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor; however, the Australian Federal government did not support the organization’s concern. At the time of the ANSTO complaint, Google had colored over some areas for security (mostly in the US), such as the rooftop of the White House and several other Washington, D.C., US buildings.

In October 2010, Nicaraguan military commander Edén Pastora stationed Nicaraguan troops on the Isla Calero (in the delta of the San Juan River), justifying his action on the border delineation given by Google Maps. Google has since updated its data which it found to be incorrect.

On January 27, 2014, documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA and the GCHQ intercepted Google Maps queries made on smartphones, and used them to locate the users making these queries. One leaked document, dating to 2008, stated that “[i]t effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system.

References

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