Police Chief Tells Parents To Hack Kids' Facebook Accounts

from the trust-is-so-last-century dept

Chrys Matyszcyk points us to a report about how a police chief in New Jersey is running seminars for parents on how to hack their kids’ Facebook accounts and install spyware and keyloggers to spy on everything they do. There’s so much wrong with the claims by Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli, it’s difficult to know where to start.

“Trust sounds good. It’s a good cliche,” says Batelli. “[But] to stick your head in the sand and think that, in 9th, 10th, 8th grade, your child is not going to be exposed to alcohol, is not going to be exposed to drugs is kind of a na?ve way to go about it.”

First of all, what’s “cliche” about trust? Does he even know what the word means? But, really, the following sentence suggests he doesn’t understand what trust means. It doesn’t mean kids won’t be exposed to such things, but that you trust them to know how to deal with it when they are. And the best way to do that is not to set up a relationship built on distrust, spying and lies, but to treat them with a modicum of respect, admitting that they’ll almost certainly come across these kinds of situations, and helping them understand what it means, and how to deal with it on their own.

“If you sugar-coat it, parents just don’t get it. Read the paper any day of the week and you’ll see an abduction [or] a sexual assault that’s the result of an Internet interaction or a Facebook comment.”

Really? Prove it. I read an awful lot of news about things happening on social networks, and I can’t recall any such story, let alone “any day of the week.” That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened — I’m sure there are some cases here or there, but the fear mongering about kids being abducted over Facebook are blown way out of proportion. And, again, this is something that can be dealt with by education, teaching kids to be aware of what they’re doing online and teaching them about self-respect — which is a bit more difficult to do when their parents are spying on them.

Amusingly, the article also quotes a parent, Carolyn Blake, who secretly installed a keylogger and spies on her kids. Later in the article, she mentions that she thinks her teenager figured out there’s a keylogger there. Well, if he hasn’t yet, I would imagine that having her tell the story, with her real name, in a major media publication probably is going to get back to him.

The real issue here is that so many people seem to think that there are two and only two options when it comes to parenting in such situations: let kids be free to wander into dangerous predator-filled waters totally unprepared, or to spy on them. Of course, that’s not true. There are a range of ways to deal with these issues, and it all starts with actually educating kids about what sorts of things and challenges they’re likely to come across as they grow up (both online and offline) and preparing them for when they inevitably face those scenarios. The kids won’t always respond as the parent wants (what kids do?), but it’s a part of growing up. Spying on their every move doesn’t prepare them for anything.

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Comments on “Police Chief Tells Parents To Hack Kids' Facebook Accounts”

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patrick (profile) says:

This is how my parents are. I am almost 17, and they insist upon using parental control software on my computer. I am not allowed to go to websites without asking first, and my father blocks any sites I visit that are not school related. I can say from personal experience that this is not the way to approach the problem. The only thing this has done is destroy any respect I once had for my parents. I have encountered situations that would be considered bad, and I think I have handled them well, but this is despite, not becasue of my parents’s efforts.

John Doe says:

Re: Re:

You sound like a well grounded kid, no pun intended πŸ™‚ Don’t be to hard on them, they are ultimately doing it under the impression that they are protecting you. It is because they care. If they didn’t care, they would let you do whatever you want. Yes, that is overly strict in my opinion, but their intentions are good.

My dad was suspicious of me and my brothers too (long before the internet). But we have a great relationship because he cared. So don’t let it ruin what might otherwise be a good relationship.

FuzzyDuck says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sounds well intentioned what you say, but I think he should be hard on them. If he’s almost 17 there is no reason to treat him like that. They should be preparing him for adult life and taking responsibility himself. They are not doing that, instead they are failing in their duty as parents to raise a responsible person.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No one uses my computer or internet connection in my house without my say-so. Nor, if given permission, can they use it to go/do anywhere/thing they want. I don’t care if they are 50 years old.

I am being responsible for my things, setting the example.

If giving leeway may mean a $1.92 million lawsuit, you aren’t getting any leeway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

as far as locking down what sites you can access, I fully intend to do the same for my kids. They if they have somewhere they want or need access to, fine, give me the address and I’ll check it out. BUT, its not so much about forcing them to stay in the sandbox as much as it is about not wanting to deal with the crap that can come from sites some people go to (Virus, Trojan, Spyware,misleading porn sites, etc). I’ll check out the site on a scrap PC that will be quickly formatted and reloaded if there is a problem with the site while I’m telling the kids “No.” If not, then what ever, as long as they are behaving, listening, and doing well in school they can do pretty much what ever they want, with in reason. I will also most likely do this with them there, unless I suspect porn may be involved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Heh. Reminds me of years ago when my teen daughter asked me for help with installing Kazaa on the family computer.

“NO! Are you kidding?” was my answer, and nothing to do with any copyrighty kind of issues either (I was oblivious at the time to those).

It was the inevitable virii – that she was ALREADY regularly infecting the machine with via IM spam – that made me put the boot down. I was the only one in the house that could ‘fix’ that stuff and I wasn’t looking for another headache.

She’s never been anything like tech savvy, despite efforts to teach her (she found it all very dull and eyerollish, had neither the aptitude nor the inclination).

Now she’s off with a kid of her own. I wonder what she’ll do when he’s old enough to go surfing around when she’s not looking. πŸ˜‰

…guh, she’ll probably call me.

Anonymous American says:

Re: Re:

We had a proxy server at the house (mind you, this was 1997). The kids were given free reign, but told this:

Your access to the internet is not restricted, HOWEVER… you will not go to porn sites. You will not go to places you know damned well you shouldn’t be. You will not tell people where you live.

All communication is logged, and I will be checking the logs. First offense is loss of internet for a day. Second is a week. Third is a month.

You’re smart kids, and I will be fair. I can tell the difference between you getting a pop-up for Hoppy’s House of Porn and spending an hour checking the pictures out.

It only took twice of losing internet access to get the message.

TasMot (profile) says:

and who really has time to evaluate keylogger files

Have you ever looked at a keylogger file? It is huge. Without proper analysis tools and a background to understand it, it is practically useless. It would take hours to go through a typical keylogger file and understand what was going on. I am an experienced computer professional and know that a keylogger is not a good solution for spying on a child. All this will eventually do is make the kids find another outlet, justify installing Linux, or find any decent excuse to just reinstall the OS. Which will mean constantly going back and reinstalling the keylogger and losing the log files anyway. But it will be a good excuse later when they say, “I tried”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: and who really has time to evaluate keylogger files

Ugh!!! The ACL’s on a router?? are you nuts. Find an open source web-filter or fork over $3k+ for a commercial one. There are still ways around this. Use hex or binary for the website, Proxy’s, or as mentioned before fire up the box from a SB or live CD.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Sigh, I remember when I was a kid...

I had to help my father set up our computer. Once I was done plugging it in, hooking up all the myriad of wires that at the time were necessary for monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc., all the while my father watching me the way your dog watches you do laundry, he turned to me and said, “Now I want you to know that I’m going to be monitoring what you do on that thing very closely. I’ll know what you’re doing.”

I laughed and said, “No, you won’t.”

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Promoting crime?

Last I heard, ‘hacking’ facebook was not just a breach of facebook’s TOS but actually a crime:

US looking to use computer-hacking law against assange
Thanks To The Lori Drew Case, I Can Make Each Of You A Criminal

By the way, I’m certainly sick of seeing the once noble word ‘hacking’ used to essentially mean ‘guess a password’.

Atkray (profile) says:

Parental Control

Is an illusion. You cannot control your kids. You can teach them and hope and pray they will make wise choices but you cannot control them.

We had a friend of my son who was busted for looking at adult content by his parents. They called us up to “alert” us that it may have happened while he was at our house as well.

It had not. We keep the kids computers in a common area where people pass frequently. No filters. They have stumbled on sites occasionally and have what we as parents consider normal curiosity and then they move on. We show them trust and they respect it and honor it. I feel sorry for Patrick that his parents failed to show trust in him.

Related subject: As the neighborhood IT guy for many grandparents I don’t have to worry about fixing limewire or facebook viruses, I get to deal with 3 or more parental control applications fighting with each other and shutting off the internet connection. They seem to think that if one is good then more is better.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Prove it? Does this count?

Ok, first of all, thank you for posting that link. I’d not heard about that story and that woman is inspirationally AWESOME in her strength.

Having said that…she decided to link up with a stranger who sent her, a model, a random facebook message…and you think the problem was Facebook? She acted naive. The problem wasn’t Facebook any more than it would have been the telephone if the jackass had found out how to get her number from the phone company. The problem was his extraordinary evil and her naivete….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Prove it? Does this count?

Not helping, all children are naive, they don’t have accumulated the experiences necessary to not be naive.

That story although tragic just illustrates what could happen, but not what happens every time.

There are bad people out there for sure we all know that but some people never encounter them and they start to think it is a unicorn or something, but what do we do when we encounter bad people or bad situations? What prepare us for those moments?

In the case of children should be the parents that would have had a long conversation with them explaining the dangers and how to deal with potentially dangerous situations, and that tragic story could help illustrate that to others but not to create an environment of over protection and distrust, that is not helpful and the reason for that is because overprotective or over controlling behavior breads distrust on others and they found themselves having to experiment to learn things the hard way.

With all that said, pointing out to her naivete is not correct and could be used to confirm the dangers naive kids face on the internet, when what truly matters is having the trust of your kids so they believe you when you say to them “this is dangerous, because of this, this and this and this could happen or this also could happen”. Others had pointed out correctly that we can’t control kids and that is true we can’t control kids and we can’t control others, what we can do is express a point and see them confirm that point and know how to react to things that happen good or bad.

Hope that makes sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prove it? Does this count?

I’m gonna chime in, I also feel terrible for this girl … but, she dated him for two weeks before he raped her and beat her … and she didn’t go to the police?

I’m pretty sure that Facebook didn’t hold a gun to her head while this was going on. She could have just as easily met him at a bar, or a singles mixer, or through a co-worker, or any of the other myriad ways people meet for th first time.

btrussell (profile) says:

From the article:
“…says inappropriate photos on Facebook are threatening to ruin young people?s college and career resumes…”
And messages in general.

Which is why I had recently recommended a friend delete his sons’ facebook account. After a home visit from a police officer…

Hunting in the future may not be possible when your child is posting “I wanna kill him” on facebook and police come and confiscate all your registered guns.
Yes, the son is monitored at home on the computer(physical presence, not keylogger or such), but apparently not at school or friends houses.

“You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.”

The son will not be allowed an account for a couple of years yet.

When a parent is held accountable for the child, I figure the parent has a right to know what is going on.
Sometimes the parent is protecting themselves, not being overprotective of the child. Blame the laws, not the parent.

When you are held responsible for your pets, you keep them on a tight leash. Or risk everything.

Think of the parents!

weneedhelp (profile) says:

But, really, the following sentence suggests he doesn't understand what trust means.

Cops have a sour view of the world. Everyone is a liar, and no one can be trusted, except for their “brothers” of course.

“running seminars for parents on how to hack their kids’ Facebook accounts and install spyware and keyloggers to spy on everything they do. “
Scary that this is totally acceptable. Way to push your kids further away, and give them more excuses to hide everything they do.

“and it all starts with actually educating kids…”
Too much work. That actually requires parenting. Geez, hasn’t someone invented software to do that for me yet?

mermaldad (profile) says:

There is a time and a place...

I’ll confess. I have used a monitoring tool to spy on one of my children. This happened a few years ago when Child was in high school. My wife and I had begun to notice that Child was lying to to us…a lot. Based on other observations, we were pretty certain that Child was hiding something big. I installed the software to find out what I needed to know and then disabled it. It turned out that child was getting into something that could become cery serious, so I don’t regret my actions.

That said, I agree with Mike that routinely monitoring your kids is not the way to build a trusting relationship, or indeed to teach them how to handle the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:


First off, any police officer who openly and brazenly tells parents they should spy on their kids should not be trusted (heck they shouldn’t be in law enforcement at all). If they have no issues with me spying on my kids without any proof my kids have done anything wrong, or that they MIGHT do something wrong at some point, that tells me they would almost certainly have no issues spying on me on the off chance I might do something wrong some day. Which further destroys the myth all these laws (Patriot Act, ACTA, COICA) would never be abused to spy on innocent citizens.

Secondly, it’s pointless. Children in many cases are going to know a lot more about computer then the parents are (in fact I know a teen who turned the his father’s spyware against him and then presented his mother with proof his dad was having an affair).

Thirdly, if you haven’t taught your kids good decision making skills, and how to think about the consequences of one’s actions before they act, by the time they are in HS, you’ve mostly lost the fight already.

As with most other efforts by government these days, I don’t see this doing much to really protect children. It simply gets people accustomed to being spied on (if kids get used to their parents doing it, they won’t think anything of their government doing it when they get older. And if parents get used to telling their kids “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to hide” then they are likely to be more accepting when others to it to them).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Teach your children well...

in fact I know a teen who turned the his father’s spyware against him…

Actually, this was the point I was going to bring up on this “advice” from this, uh, police officer.

By encouraging use of these keyloggers/spyware, there’s a potential that the kids find out and start learning…their takeaway might be that they think it’s okay to spy…

I prefer not to encourage the use of this type software.

I’ll second the decision making skills and consequence part.
I hope I can teach that first before they run across keyloggers/spyware.

nameless says:

Oh man I would have LOVED for my parents to try crap like this. Not only is it fairly easy to figure out somethings changed if you know what you’re doing (Ok, I’ve been working with computers since I was 4 and have used linux since I was 10. I may be exaggerating a bit) but it’s easy to screw around with them. I’m thinking of keyloggers and this comic comes to mind http://xkcd.com/525/

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: I think this describes the situation niceley..


Sounds like a clear abuse of power.

“Lawful Intercept (LI) to hack his family’s facebook accounts,”
So LI is being used so this douche can check up on his family? See cops even treat their own families like criminals.

V says:


Sadly, this is very typical of the government and government employees… the more spying, the more control – the more POWER – they have, the better they feel.

The fact that a government employee is advocating breach of ToS is not surprising either. The government regularly and consistantly ignores their own laws – but god forbid YOU break one.

As for the parents keylogging a computer. This IS preparing you for the real world. If you work in business, nothing you do on a work machine is private. Not only may they have a keylogger, but they will have copies of emails, logs of your web activities and more.

Sadly, this is all about control – and not about caring. Instead of doing the right thing, and teaching responsibility and educating in the consequences of our actions – and inactions, they want to rule with an iron fist and have all of us goose-stepping to their copyrighted tune.

Sychodelix (profile) says:

I learned to use computers and write batch files in msdos when I was around 4-5 years old. In a few years I was programming and was a world ahead of even my grandfather who taught me how to use it. There wasn’t much of anything but AOL and Compuserve at the time, but if there would have been some app spying on me at the time, I would have found it. Unless the parent is very tech savvy, this isn’t going to work. Most kids today know far more about computers than their parents, and only the newer parents that are more knowledgeable about technology are going to have a leg up.

In any case, trust is important and you can’t build trust by spying on your kids completely unwarranted. Then again, you can’t be naive either and expect that your “little angel” would never do anything wrong. There’s a happy medium without becoming as bad as big brother. Good parenting helps too!

Bob Battle says:

Trust but verify

Its ok to check on kids. They have lots of influences. They think they are invulnerable and don’t really believe they can die, get raped, get pregnant, or do stuff that will affect people for the rest of their lives (however long that may be). You don’t want to tell them what to do about the little stuff. I didn’t tell my daughter that i knew about her cutting. When she arranged to meet somebody from out of state at a hotel room, and lied to me, its only because i insisted in meeting the person she claimed she was meeting, that she changed her mind and apologized. Don’t lie to your kids about how much privacy they should think they have. they are your responsibility. Call them once in a while to see if they are where they say they are. PS my daughter out grew that phase and is doing great with her life in college.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Prove it? Does this count?

@Dark Helmet – Sorry, couldn’t help myself when a softball is lobbed right down the middle. As for the subject itself, looks like I used the wrong link, because I had commented in this article (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1351435/Acid-attack-victim-Katie-Piper-attacked-going-boy-met-Facebook.html#comments) that:

“Friend on Facebook”? Cripes, how many times have we heard horror stories start out with a line like that for the last 10 to 15 years? Let this be a lesson to folks that keep confusing the ‘virtual world’ with real life. If this was 20 years ago, the chances of these two meeting would have been quite less – because there would not have been this very false sense of ‘computer security’.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Prove it? Does this count?

@Brian Schroth – just picking up the guantlet dropped by Mr. Masnick, the author of the article, and not the cop in question. However, since you are wondering…

http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/Websites-Put-New-Face-on-Business-of-Seeking-American-Husbands-116113059.html – Friday, 18 February 2011

http://womansday.ninemsn.com.au/trueconfessions/trueconfessions/997508/my-online-girlfriend-turned-out-to-be-a-man – Wednesday, June 17, 2009

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700007664/Internet-rape-case-jolts-Wyoming-city.html – Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010

http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/11/12/when-do-simple-craigslist-pranks-turn-into-cases-of-harassment/ – November 12, 2010

Shall I even mention Stone Phillips at this point?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11131562/ns/dateline_nbc/ – February 1, 2006

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prove it? Does this count?

Are you serious?

The Friday is about people wanting to marry and finding relationships on websites where are the abduction [or] a sexual assault? Mail brides are now an internet only thing?

The Wednesday is about a odd friendship relationship, no abduction or sexual assault.

The other Friday about Craiglist is not about online interactions leading to harassment is about people using Craiglist to harass others whetter that happened online or offline it is targeting people they don’t like.

So you got a Wednesday with the Stone Phillips that could count and a Saturday with the rape case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prove it? Does this count?

Oops reading the rape case it was not about interactions leading to something bad but about revenge, no kids are about to be saved about that kind of thing since in that case no direct interactions with the victim was necessary there is nothing spying on them would have prevented that act.

The boyfriend posed as the victim convincing a guy that the victims fantasy was to be raped and did everything without the victims knowledge, no amount of spying on her internet would have prevented that.

Seriously, if that is all you got to justify spying on other family members things are not looking good for that.

Michael says:

Its quite simple

My kids are not allowed to have accounts that we cannot access, they are not allowed to use the internet unsupervised until we feel they are mature enough, and if they do not like or attempt to bypass our rules, they have NO access to internet in the house at all. The two older kids tried to pull a fast one on us a couple of time, and I removed their internet access entirely for a month. Parenting is not about being your child’s friend, it is about taking enough time to know their maturity levels and give them responsibilities accordingly. In the end WE decide what is best for them, and if they don’t follow the rules there are consequences every single time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Its quite simple

Here is what I see:

My kids are not allowed to make their own decisions and fail and without that knowledge they will be less prepared to deal with relationships that depends on trust in the future.

Only my needs are important and should be respected and no one is allowed to contest that.

Parenting is not about friendship or learning is about getting it right in the first try with serious consequences if you don’t, in the end WE believe we can control them and will ultimately fail to do that and they will hide things from us because the consequences are so severe if they don’t.

Now teaching responsibility is something that takes time and patience to achieve and above all it takes an example, kids look at their parents and they assimilate those quirks their parents have.

When I see those things written I know why the U.S. government and authorities do the things they do it is because those things are hardwired on the culture of the land.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Trusting your kids

RIGHT ON, Michael!
True example; when my “kids” were young (in conservative Texas), we treated them as equals (with the power of the veto, but only in extreme cases, which fortunately never came up). Our relatives were HORRIFIED! “Children need to be closely monitored and controlled, etc.” They even tried to “teach” the kids “properly” while babysitting.
I finally told them “you want followers, raise followers, I want leaders, I am raising leaders”.
Now our kids are all highly respected leaders (though there were some problems, for a decade, with the youngest, which SHE fixed!). Their kids are followers.
Nuff said.

Chris (user link) says:

Keyloggers Are Extremely Effective - Keep Children Safe

We have many happy customers who use this to keep an eye on their children. We need to keep our children safe when online, and using such software will ensure they are not taken advantage of.

We never condone anyone using this type of software other than for their own security. Its a powerful piece of software, safe, reiliable, and most importantly of all, will help thousands of parents to keep an eye on their children, knowing they are safe when on social networking sites.

greg says:


I might have a different view on this. If your child is using your internet account. The internet account is in YOUR NAME, you do have a right to know what traffic is passing through YOUR network at all times. If anything mischievous is going on, it is also YOUR responsibility to make sure that is not happening. I also think if you own the computer, you can do anything you want with that computer.

Tom (profile) says:

Child monitoring

A parent absolutely has the right to monitor their minor child’s use of everything! It is the parents who are legally responsible for the actions of their children.
The problem with children today is that they think that they have the “right” to do whatever they want and whenever they want. Children feel a tremendous sense of entitlement.

My teen is no different. She feels that since I own a computer and have Internet access, that she is entitled to the use of it in any way she wishes. She thinks it is okay to arrange to meet up with a guy for a roll in the hay and that I have no right to know about it, much less do anything about it.

As a parent, it is my responsibility to supervise my kids and what they are doing. I am not under any obligation to provide the tools to them and then blindly allow them to misuse those tools in a manner that could be damaging to themselves or others.

Do I trust my kids? Yes, but I trust with verification. Do I let my teen roam the streets at 3am because I trust her? No! Computers and technology are no different. The Internet is a virtual world of 3am street trouble that is actively trolling for victims. Kids are so gullible because they think that they know everything – From the very first day of kindergarten when they learn how to tie their shoes, they begin to regard themselves as all-knowing supreme beings.

Kids think that parents came into the world as adults and that we have no knowledge of what teenagers do. If you are a parent and you can’t set up your own computer, it is your DUTY to learn before you bring one into the house, but you had better learn and get one. Just because you don’t have one in the house does not mean that they will not use one somewhere else.

And as for key loggers, they are absolutely not useless with billions of bits of random data. I receive a daily email outlining the complete details of everything that computer has been used for, separated by user log in name and sorted in order – including all Internet activity, usernames and passwords. I also have a full compliment of screen shots that are saved every 10 seconds that automatically get saved onto my local server.

Do I obsessively go through all of that information? No. In fact, I rarely even look at any of it. When there is a problem, however, I do sort through it and am usually able to find a problem very quickly.

Nothing kills the mood for a thug boyfriend more than Dad showing up in the abandoned house across the way with a shotgun just as they were “working into the mood”. Incidentally, I have since learned that said thug boyfriend has a child with another 15 year old girl that my teen is friends with on Facebook. Glad I choose to monitor things so that MY teen’s future isn’t compromised by “Knowing it all”.

And yes, my teen regularly tries to bypass my monitoring tools and sneak around, but “Daddy ain’t no dummy”. I make it my business to know more about technology than my kids and their friends.

I monitor her iPod goings on as well, and no, I don’t need the iPod in my hand to monitor it.

By the way, I also have all of my teen’s friends facebook usernames, passwords and email information since they log on to their accounts from my computer when they are here. I make it a point to share that information with their parents and even help them to set their computers up to monitor their teens and friends.

It is my responsibility and my obligation. I am not infringing on anyone’s privacy, because they are all fully aware that I am watching. Every move they make on my computer can be seen and they know it.

Valen Erap says:

Unblocked: The Blocked Side of Facebook

There’s a great new book called, Unblocked: The Blocked Side of Facebook, which shows the real side of Facebook for teenagers. This is the side of Facebook parents don’t see. Please if you have a teenager or soon to be teenager – this is a must read! As a bonus there?s a Slang and Emoticon Dictionary in the back of the book. For a short time Amazon is offering $5off Unblocked at https://www.createspace.com/3689179.
Promo Code: UTGYQQHB

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