back to article BT silences customers over Phorm

BT has banned all future discussion of Phorm and its "WebWise" targeted advertising product on its customer forums, and deleted all past threads about the controversy dating back to February. Subscribers to BT's broadband packages had used the BT Beta forums to criticise its relationship with Phorm and raise concerns about the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absolute Cobblers

    "He said the fact that BT had chosen not only to close the threads but delete them entirely was insignificant. "

    Yeah, right. And salmon live in trees and eat pencils.

    This is BT trying to hide all of its dealings with a company that has repeatedly failed to answer straight questions and the fact that a lot of their customers are very p*ssed off about it. Try as they might BT can't airbrush away their involvement with Phorm. for anyone new to this ongoing issue - Phorm failing completely to address the issues raised about its legality and trustworthiness.

    And anyone with BT should drop them. Now.

  2. Codge

    Another reason

    If you needed one, to avoid using BT for anything.

    What ever happened to reasoned debate?

    I had problems with Dell and a dead lappy battery, and they did the same thing. Deleted my posts, and then the entire thread, twice. And then threatened me with booting me off their forums.


    Stop, for obvious reasons.

  3. Oliver Mayes

    A bit of Basil Fawlty going on here?

    "Don't mention the Phorm, I might have mentioned it once or twice but I think I got away with it."

  4. Joe K
    Thumb Down


    Why anyone would stick with BT over this is beyond me.

    They are scum who want to fuck any and all money out of you as they can, they couldn't care less about your privacy or rights.

    Utter scum.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Oh really?

    Censor this then BT!

    In two months my broadband contract is over and I am not going to renew it, purely because of the Phorm/Webwise issue. And no offers of "loyal customer" discounts or free digital TV boxes are going to change my mind.

  6. Matt D
    Thumb Down

    The first rule of Phorm club is...

    ... you do not talk about Phorm club.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    New CEO?

    Did I miss the story where it was announced that Steve Jobs is the new CEO of BT ... ?

  8. dervheid
    Black Helicopters

    tells you all you need to know

    If it (webwise) was a good thing, then BT would be able to defend any criticism of it.

    Bad move BT, now we REALLY think you've something to hide!

  9. Toastan Buttar
    Black Helicopters

    Customer service manual written 60 years ago ?

    "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."

  10. J.Butler
    Thumb Down


    Stop your customers discussing something that might make them leave shocker.

    Dodgey to say the least, seems like BT have something to hide.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Customer Choice goes too !!!

    It may just be a 'technical glitch' but customer choice seems to have disappeared too.

    The Webwise Q&A section asks:

    "How can I distinguish between cookies that were placed by Webwise and those given to me by websites I visited?

    The Webwise cookie is clearly named "webwise-uid" so it can be easily identified. It will either contain the unique identifier string if you’re opted in or it will contain "OPTED_OUT" if you are not.

    As explained on the >>>Customer Choice<<< Process page, when a user opts into the BT Webwise service, a Webwise UID cookie, containing a unique random number is placed on the user’s computer. This master cookie is held is the domain. When the user then visits other websites, the Webwise system stores a copy of the Webwise UID cookie within the browser in each the website domains visited by the user. The cookies are clearly labelled as belonging to Webwise as noted above and as a result can be easily identified as different to those cookies which may be placed by the website itself."

    The link to the customer choice page now returns a 404 error

    This page was the home of the diagram which showed the browser hijack that enabled the forged cookies to be set. It is still visible in the Google cache for those who have not seen it before.

    Are they trying to remove evidence that can be used in a class action by websites that object to BT adding forged cookies that claim to be from every domain visited but are really evidence of BT fraudulently impersonating other websites?

    If you find a webwise-check or webwise-uid cookie on your computer, please make a copy of the cookie file before deleting the cookie. The class action needs evidence which has so far been the one problem with any legal action re the 2006 and 2007 trails where cookies and cache were quickly deleted by anyone who discovered the hijacked performed during those trials.

    If you can also save browser logs showing the hijack / redirection that sets the cookies, even better.

  12. Steve

    Daft buggers

    What better way to get something talked about than to ban discussion of it...!

  13. Luke
    Black Helicopters

    Makes sense

    If I was illegally wire-tapping people, selling this data to advertisers and then 'marketing' it as some type of security benefit to my own customers, I wouldn't want said customers discussing it on my own website! That would be awful for business.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    BT censorship nothig more

    BT would rather delete the posts than answer valid questions in over 200 pages many with questions that needed an answer you would have seen none at all from any BT representative.

    Not only was theBT webwise thread removed but threads that proved BT had failed to deliver MAC keys within the permitted time laid by OFCOM. This I do know for sure since I participated in the MAC thread due to BT taking almost 4 weeks to generate a MAC for my son.

    The ICO and Phorm's PIA both have in them that BT needs to communicate with customers about this technology instead BT response is to delete emails unread, fail to reply at all or reply only when the sender has CC the email to others like ICO, OFCOM or MEPs.

    In all replies there is total failure to ease the fears of many customers, the paranoia this type of snooping causes. The inability to make BTwebwise opt-in instead of opt-out. The total lack of care that customers who do not opt-in would still be sent through the profiler which leads to still intercepting a communication without consent since they didn’t opt-in.

    Then there is the copyright all websites have T&C that allow the visitor to do a temp copy to read the page all websites do have clauses that copies or part copies cannot be used for commercial gain.

    BT has the same on their sites. BT shop quotes “Copyright

    The content of the Site is protected by copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights as applicable and is provided solely for your own use. Republication or redistribution of any of the content available on the Site including by framing or similar means is prohibited.”

    Dabs owned by BT. Indemnity (applies only to non-consumer customers)

    You shall indemnify and hold us harmless from all losses, liabilities, costs and expenses in connection with any claim by any third party with respect to any alleged or actual infringement of copyright, trademark, Service mark or any other proprietary rights or any false or misleading statements or breach of advertising standards resulting from the use of this Service by you. This clause shall survive termination of this agreement for any reason whatsoever.

    So is BT now going to communicate?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    I for one.....

    ...welcome our forum-thread-and-post deleting overlords.

    Hmm, wonder if this will make it past the moderator :)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If leaving BT check your final bill

    I did and it looks like there may have been a bit of BTAAP (BT accepted accounting principles). It certainly looks too high and I've queried it.

    So check your final bill as you close BT's door behind you.

  17. Jason
    Black Helicopters

    1984 anyone?

    Nuff Said

  18. Norfolk Enchants Paris

    Isn't this

    very bad phorm?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Bt contacts page

    Sent them a nice little message, have copied it to some others as well

    "How are you going to avoid being jointly reposible for the breach of copyright and the breach of RIPA when your parteners scan the numerous websites that I own, without my consent, and use the contents for commercial gain and to support the advertising of my competitors?

    Should I become aware of any such breaches from my server logs I shall seek legal redress from all those parties concerned including BT, Phorm and the advertiser whose adverts you then deliver to your Broadband customers as a result of the information you have gleaned from my site."

  20. Robert M Jones
    Thumb Down

    But they removed their own post too...

    The strange thing about all this censorship is that BT even removed their OWN announcement about the current Webwise trial. It seems that not only do BT not want to engage with their customers (not a single reply to a customer during the whole life of the Webwise Technical Trial discussion thread) but they are even embarrassed about mentioning Webwise themselves - the moderator posted an announcement about the new Webwise trial on 29th September and even THAT has been deleted.

    It's very difficult to hold a constructive discussion with your ISP when they never reply. The only time a BT staff member ever visited that Trial Discussion thread was to censor, delete or edit a post for what they deemed was unacceptable content. As they kept making up new guidelines as they went along it was difficult to keep up. The one consistent thing was - they never engaged with customers about Webwise.

    The product that dare not speak its name is hiding under the covers. So much for transparency and openness. Perhaps the ICO will want an explanation, as according to his office, BT are meant to be engaging with their customers. As Adam Liversage might say - "yeah"!

  21. Alex

    "Adam Liversage, BT's chief press officer, told The Register: WebWise threads weren't appropriate"

    Perhaps its because they've seen sense and are about to announce the decision to pull the phlug?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Scum

    "Why anyone would stick with BT over this is beyond me."

    Because plenty of people were daft enough to sign up for their deals which included an 18 month lock-in. My parents did this, even after I said, "whatever you do, don't sign up with BT". Sigh... the concept of broadband and phone provider being independant still confuses too many people.

  23. The Other Steve
    Thumb Down

    Stalinist purges and revisionism

    Not just deleting the threads, but banning users who asked where any further information would be posted, found their posts missing, and then posted them again.

    Like many jumped up fascist forum mods all over the intertubes, BT's moderators will not have their actions questioned. From the looks of the discussions on NoDPI and other places, quite a few users have been banned. Including me, but then I was fairly rude, as is my wont.

    There also seems to be an ongoing attempt to edit other threads which may contain traces of Phorm, or that linked to the threads that have been removed.

    I'm no longer surprised that BT believe that it's acceptable to treat customers with such contempt, but it still really boils my piss.

    Oh yeah : @ Joe K "Why anyone would stick with BT over this is beyond me."

    Because some of us are still in lengthy contracts and have to wait until the expiry dates or pay BT shit loads of cash, that's why. Contract ends, BT gone, and if they keep acting like this, contract torn up, BT sued. It will be an entirely futile gesture I'm sure.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As I understand, BT have to allow other operators to install their kit into exchanges, or at least allow access wholesale to the lines in order to not breach monopolies legislation.

    Do we yet know if these other providers, using BT fibre and copper, will be TOTALLY seperate from the Phorm-connected network?

    Will we have to start setting fire to exchanges?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's not so good to talk...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phorm share price and BT's reputation

    Phorm share price is still looking pretty poor. Temporary rise last week but general direction is still downwards.

    BT can hope that Phorm's impending collapse might let them off the hook, but I think they'll find that the technical community have long memories. This may not be good news for them, particularly as it's this technical community that act as advisors to non-techie friends and relations, and, in my case, in my capacity as an IT architect, to businesses.

    Friend: "I want to get a better broadband deal, is the BT deal a good one?"

    Me: "No."

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is BT a fruit?

    Seems they have taken a large leaf out of Apples rulebook

  28. Andy Livingstone

    B(loody) T(errible)

    Useful address:

    BT plc,

    Complaints Review Service,

    110 Europa Boulevard,



    WA5 5FZ.

    Keep it handy. You never know when you might need it.

  29. ElFatbob

    Agree with makesense comment

    While BT are the Epitomy of everything that is wrong with corporations, you can see why they did this.

    Why would you sneak an illegal trial of spying software on your unsuspecting customers, then run another trial (allegedly now compliant with the law), mislead your customers as to the true nature of the software (dress it up as a benefit) then have people expose it (and your deceit) for what it is it on your own forums?

  30. Law
    Paris Hilton

    OK - I want to avoid them... but how?!

    I'm about to move into a new house... I'm with Sky Broadband at the minute and want to continue with them, but I will need to pay BT to install a new line as the new place is brand new... do I have a choice of paying somebody else?? Before you say Virgin, I vowed never to use them ever again, plus they are not in the area.

  31. Chronos

    Streisand effect.

    Not attracting attention: You're doing it wrong.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    It's a shame

    It's a shame they deleted all the past posts. Some of the comments posted to those were quite amusing.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Is it simple coinkydink that these threads are pulled at the same time as BTinternet users suddenly find their browsers unable to download redirected pages?


  34. Anonymous Coward

    You ain't see nothin'...


  35. Andy ORourke

    Technical support?

    "Our broadband support forums are designed to be a place where customers can discuss technical support issues and offer solutions. "

    Surely the discussion of how to prevent the tapping of your communications is a legitimate tech support issue and I can offer a solution.................

    Phuck off BT

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Running scared?

    Can't take the criticism? Delete the thread. Great move.

  37. Mat

    Titles are for pansies!

    Seems to me that BT are quite adept at shooting themselves in the foot.

    Do they honestly think that the Phorm controversy is going to just go away?


  38. Simon C

    OK - I want to avoid them... but how?! - By Law

    With regards to the phone line you are pretty much stuffed. But you are paying for a phone line, simple. The phorm travesty is simply to do with internet connectivity.

    By having a BT phone line doesnt enroll you into the Phorm system. That would depend on you signing up to BT's internet service.

    So paying BT for a phone line is pretty much unavoidable.

    And the say monopolies are bad things!

  39. Anonymous Coward

    So, I have a question

    Will they purge all the forums and your postings if you were to put up entries in every forum about this mess or would they just kill your forum-id (don't know if they require one). It would be funny to see them just purge all the forums and quit taking new entries if each of their forums were "updated".

  40. Peter White

    great PR BT

    those of us on bt forums tried in vain to get some basic answers from BT regarding phorm, both in public via the forums and in private via E-Mail

    total silence

    i personally got banned, due to asking where my previous post had gone (breaking the 'dont query mod decisions' rule), before i recieved the email to say my post had been deleted due to breaking the rule of discussing another isp (ZEN)

    i have since emailed the moderators twice querying the ban etc, guess what total silence, not even a curtesy reply to say "mod decission final" etc

    very heavy handed is all i can say, out of what appears to be desperation to try and contain critisism of the whole webwise issue

    but all it has done is move the debate out into many sites like this , nodpi, ispreview etc which many more will read and cause BT far more damaging publicity (nice own goal BT PR Dept)

    much of this would have been headed off, if as phorms PIA and the ICO said about connecting and holding dialogue with the customers

    bottom line is bt needs to get its head out of the sand (or other places) and talk to it's customers, and not via some vague poll which is rigged and bt not willing to publish saying everyone wants webwise

    come on BT step up to the plate and talk to people


    peter white

    mine the one with the mac code in the pocket as soon as i can break my contract due to material change clause, will NEVER USE BT AGAIN

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    He said the fact that BT had chosen not only to close the threads but delete them entirely was insignificant. "It doesn't matter either way because the people who are following this will have the threads backed up in multiple copies"

    I hope that includes the EU. I know Commissioner Reding's office have been taking note of the ongoing (one-way) discussions there.

    Another own-goal from this ridiculously mis-managed ex global telco.

  42. Law

    @ simon

    As I feared! :) Thanks.

    I will start researching ISP that won't be jumping into bed with Phorm... as good as sky bb has been for me so far, I think I remember their name showing up on a list of adopters when all this blew up 6 months ago.

  43. Andrew Maddison
    Thumb Up

    @ Law and @ Simon C (about avoiding BT)

    "I'm about to move into a new house... I'm with Sky Broadband at the minute and want to continue with them, but I will need to pay BT to install a new line as the new place is brand new... do I have a choice of paying somebody else??"

    You can phone The Post Office. They offer the possibility of installation of a new phone line to use their service, however their phone service doesn't have a 12 month minimum contract period. They also charge £110 for a new line, as opposed to BT's £126.99 (IIRC), and if you get a line with BT then you're tied to BT for 12 months. Have a look on the Post Office website for home phone (though you need to phone them as they can't take a new line order over the 'net).

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Re:Will we have to start setting fire to exchanges?

    Don't be a dick all your life.

    I've said it so many times, if you don't like Phorm once your contract is up with BT or anyone else who servers adverts without you being advised or given an opt in/out then stop doing business with them its simple. The whole point of this is to generate revenue so for every targetted ad they gain from, they lose a customer, no customers no Frickin use for adverts anywhere is there.

    It really is that easy if you think about it.

  45. phormwatch

    Don't stop complaining

    Don't stop the complaints. Write to your MP and MEP (Member of European Parliament):

    Complain to the ICO using this form:

    Complain to BT using this form:

    Complain to Ofcom about BT's poor customer service, snooping, and trying to bind you to an 18-month contract when it has been materially changed:

    Remember, you can cancel your contract if the contract is a material change and is detrimental to you. See:

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same Boat as AA

    "In two months my broadband contract is over and I am not going to renew it, purely because of the Phorm/Webwise issue. And no offers of "loyal customer" discounts or free digital TV boxes are going to change my mind."

    I'm in exactly the same position. Except, I'm not waiting that long. Tomorrow I am going to call them up, tell them I am cancelling and ask them how much I owe the fucking dirty cunts, write a cheque for the balance and move on.

    Add to this the total shit I have had to put up with from these arseholes making unsolicited sales calls to a TPS AND ex-directory number (MINE) over the past month is beyond telling (apparently they can just ignore that), and has also contributed to my decision to pull the plug by cancelling the direct debit. That got their attention. Apparently they "can't send me a bill on paper and have me pay by cheque".

    Fucking idiots.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Oh ... Forgot to add

    Their broadband service is fucking shit, slow and keeps requiring me to reboot the router up to four times a day.

    How they can actually extort money for this level of service is beyond my ken.

  48. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down

    Can't stand he heat...

    ...get a new ISP. Simple. Why stay there and moan about it when you can just go to a better ISP?

  49. A Bee

    The BT Gulag

    The problem that BT got into with the forum threads was that they deliberately restricted threads, and, by way of a sweetener, they created a limited number of threads (eventually one) in which they invited questions about Webwise.

    Since Webwise had not been implemented, all the questions were about how it was going to work, and the only people who could answer those questions were BT.

    BT did not answer the questions. (And they steadfastly did not answer the questions about when they would answer the questions.)

    Furthermore, since the people who were asking questions were the ones who knew about Phorm and were therefore convinced that it was a thoroughly bad idea, all of the questions were hostile.

    As BT did not answer the questions, the questions became progressively more hostile.

    BT had two ways out: they could have made the honest admission that spying on their customers was a bad idea. Instead, they took the Stalinist approach.

    Mine's the MAC.

  50. n


    they are still a monopoly.

  51. The Other Steve

    RE: So, I have a question

    "Will they purge all the forums and your postings if you were to put up entries in every forum about this mess"


    "or would they just kill your forum-id"

    Yes also, and as well.

  52. Anonymous Coward

    So, how long before any page with Phorm in gets blocked?

    So, how long will it be before those of us using BT broadband will cease being able to read any page with the word Phorm in it? How long will it be before they start using it to censor webpages before they even get to us.

    1984 indeed :(

    Ironic really, I've actually been quite happy with their service up until now, it's a shame I'll have to cancel ours... Bad Phorm BT.

  53. Florence Stanfield
    Dead Vulture

    BT also deleted

    Any threads that showed them exceed the 5days to deliver a MAC key. I know first hand on this as I posted in the one that was under the heading 9 days and counting..

    My son had three cancelations placed on his BB just because he was told BT had broken their contract with him and was entitled to move for free even though he still had 10months contract left. Took BT over 3 weeks to just generate his MAC they also had to void the last month’s bill as if they had generated the MAC as promised he would have been out before the next billing month.

    Just how much has all this cost BT in lost revenue, their reputation in customer trust?

    Any ISP that decides the only way is to delete the customer’s posts then ban them are onto a loser.

  54. Anonymous Coward

    So ....

    ... there is no point in asking them for a 'sticky' pointing to nodpi then?

  55. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Down

    PR Twonks strike back

    Some overpaid PR twonk has made this decision.

    Bad phorm BT!

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    comically inept

    I noticed another online publication called the decision comically inept. Many others state similar. Isn't it about time BT got someone in the system that understood the internet and it's users.

    Maybe then they will realise Phorm will bring them few pounds shillings and pence. Just a lot of bad ongoing PR and a mass of customers requesting their MAC code. BT, you are a disgrace!

  57. Anonymous Coward

    @AC (Re:Will we have to start setting fire to exchanges?)

    If you'd actually read my comment instead of pickinig up on the one item within it which you managed to understand ("Uggg fire bad. Me say you bad man.") you'd have noticed the phrases above regarding Local Loop Unbundling and the impact that installing Phorm equipment would have on these non-BT ISPs.

    My point was that if BT installs this equipment on their network, and the LLU services are all connected to that network, then we don't avoid Phorm by switching to an alternative ADSL provider. Therefore, BT won't care if you leave their service, and they'll still make money from Phorm.

    Tell me, do you phone up companies who say "Buy it NOW!" at the end of their adverts and complain about them demanding money from you? Kindly remove your cranium from your rectal cavity before wading in with both feet next time.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Frankly I can't see what the fuss is about. Rather than running hundreds of pages pissing and bitching about Phorm on BT's forums, it would be more productive and easier just to switch ISP?

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Because if BT gets away with this, other ISPs will see that as a green light to join the party. "When they came for the BT users, I did not speak out..." etc.

    I've vaguely considered actually _joining_ BT if they go ahead with Phorm so that I can participate in polluting the Phorm data pool!

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Anonymous coward - overblown

    > Frankly I can't see what the fuss is about. Rather than running hundreds of pages pissing and bitching about Phorm on BT's forums, it would be more productive and easier just to switch ISP?

    No-one cares about Phorm - they are just another scummy advertising outfit, heading for the exit. BT are the villains for abusing their customers and trying to hide their shameful behavior.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I really love BT

    and I thimk their service is first rate and their customer service second to none. I don't understand what all the fuss is about.

    But then I'm phucking mental

  62. Anonymous Coward

    Bye Phuckers!!

    I left BT two weeks ago at the end of my contract; it took 6 days to get my MAC code after I had been promised it would take only 5 days. I rang on the 6th day and the BT tard on the phone said he was very sorry and it would take another 5 days as they had technical difficulties. I said ok and asked for his name as I would be reporting the matter to ofcom. I received my MAC an hour later. :P

    I am now with a proper ISP, customer support is excellent, they txt me to let me know they have responded to tickets I opened on their support page. I have 3 times the download speed and 5 times upload speed and for £2 less than I was paying BT. :)

    I was nearly tempted by the 6 months free broadband I was offered to stay with them, Phucking glad I didn't.

  63. Ash
    Thumb Up

    @AC (Bye Phuckers!!)

    Care to share the wealth? Who's your new ISP?

    I think we all might need that information soon... ;)

  64. Jove Bronze badge

    Not before time

    Unfortunately, much of what was appearing on the Webwise threads was unadorned, adolescent tripe. Those concerned did more to turn-off BT users interest with all of their aggression, rather than help their cause. Overall it was badly handled by both sides with little of practical value being achieved.

  65. David

    BT down the pan

    The rot set in when they were privatised. I can vouch for that, being an ex BT maintenance man, I go right back to the days in the 60's when the "firm" was a government department and called "Post Office Telephones". Quaint, huh? Running around in little green Morris 1000 vans the staff used to take care of customers and the job carried a bit of status. Not any more. They brought in "managers" who knew next-to-nothing about the engineering work ot the systems they were supposed to be over-seeing and changed complicated and unnessary paper-work procedures almost daily, which did nothing for staff morale and contributed an equally big zero to the day-to-day running of the organisation.

    Looking at them with my consumer hat on, I have had aggravation on two house moves where there were cock-ups with the line provision, appointments broken, etc. I am not impressed with the current state of BT, as you can probably gather and this Phorm debacle only strengthens that view.

  66. Anonymous Coward

    @@AC (Bye Phuckers!!)

    That ISP sounds a lot like BeThere.

    I moved from Virgin to BeThere a few months ago (I even had to go to the expense of getting a BT line fitted). The poor connection speeds, endless traffic shaping and having to phone a premium line number to tell them there servers were down AGAIN was bad enough but Phorm was the straw that broke the camel's back.

    I find Be to be very good, not the cheapest and their modem/router is poor (though free) but the tech support actually understands both English and tech speak and you get a sms every time you get a bill or a ticket is updated (a feature you can switch off).

    I don't think you can trust any company completely not to go down the Phorm route, however the 1month contract helps. Go with Phorm and I leave, simple.

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