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Notary Bulletin

The State Of Remote Online Notarization

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(Originally published in the November 2019 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

A few years ago, if you had asked if it were possible to notarize for a signer who was hundreds or thousands of miles away from you, you’d have been told you were crazy. But today, nearly two dozen states across the nation have authorized Notaries to perform notarizations remotely using audiovisual technology via the internet. This is called remote online notarization, also known as RON.

RON makes substantive changes to the way notarizations are performed. Some Notaries worry that RON deviates too far from traditional safeguards. Others are excited about the prospect of notarizing for customers hundreds or even thousands of miles away without needing to leave home and counter that RON is actually more secure than paper notarizations.

One of the challenges faced by Notaries and others in embracing remote online notarization is the fact that the laws authorizing it redefine many of the elements of traditional notarization, including what it means for a signer to personally appear before the Notary, how the signer is identified and how records of notarizations are made and kept.

In this article, we’ll compare how remote notarization differs from traditional pen-and-paper notarization, discuss the most urgent concerns Notaries have raised about RON, and look at new remote online notarization business models emerging for Notaries and Signing Agents.

The Most Radical Change

The most radical change is the requirement for the signer to personally appear before the Notary at the time of the notarization. Until recently that requirement meant that the signer had to be in the physical presence of the Notary so they could communicate directly, face to face with each other.

With remote online notarization, states have broadened that definition. Now, that face-to-face contact can be satisfied online using audiovisual technology such as a webcam. The signer can be in another town, another state or even another country.

Naturally, many questions have been raised about this change. If you aren’t face-to-face with a signer, how can you verify their identity? What if there is a person holding a gun off-camera? How do you meet your journal-keeping requirements?

“I really want to learn more about remote notarization, but I have concerns,” said Donna Laird, a Notary in San Bernardino County, California, a state that has not authorized remote online notarizations but is considering it. Living in a mountain community, Laird says the idea of reaching customers without needing to drive long distances is very appealing. At the same time, she worries whether RON remote notarization has enough safeguards against fraud.

Proponents assert that the means for identifying signers of RONs produces greater confidence of a person’s identity than the means of identifying signers for a paper notarization and that with today’s communication technologies, a Notary can make determinations of a signer’s willingness and mental competence just as well as a Notary who is physically present with the signer.

Identifying Signers

So how does a remote Notary confirm a signer’s identity without being able to hold and examine an ID? State RON laws have crafted rules for the identity-vetting task that are tailored for the online environment in which a RON takes place. The main ways a Notary verifies an identity online include:

• Knowledge-based authentication, known as KBA

• Credential Analysis

• Remote Presentation (Viewing IDs via webcam)

With knowledge-based authentication, the signer must correctly answer a set of computer-generated questions related to their life, credit and financial history. State rules and industry standards allow for the signer to take a second KBA with a subset of different questions if they fail the first one. If the signer cannot successfully pass the KBA, the Notary will not perform the notarization. One drawback to KBA is that it often cannot be used to verify the identities of minors and young adults because they lack sufficient credit histories to generate the KBA questions. KBA also cannot be used to identify foreign citizens who lack a Social Security number.

With credential analysis, the RON technology solution is used to scan the signer’s ID credential for the presence of identifiers and security elements to confirm that the ID is valid.

KBA and credential analysis are typically incorporated into the technology used by the Notary.

With remote presentation, the signer holds their ID to the camera and the Notary can check that the signer’s appearance and other details match the information on the ID.

Credential analysis and remote presentation compare and correspond to the Notary’s handling the physical ID during a paper notarization today.

Many existing RON laws require Notaries to use at least two of the methods mentioned above, but most require all three. These states typically also allow a Notary to identify a signer based on the Notary’s personal knowledge or through the oath or affirmation of credible witness, just like for a paper notarization. As more states enact remote online notarization laws, they may have different requirements for identifying signers. South Dakota, for example, only permits its Notaries to use personal knowledge to verify a remote signer’s identity.

How A Remote Online Notarization Is Performed

To start a remote notarization, both the signer and Notary must access a RON platform. In most cases, the document for a remote online notarization must be in an electronic format such as a PDF. The document is uploaded to the RON platform. The platform provides the audiovisual technology allowing the Notary and signer to see, hear and communicate with each other. Once the Notary verifies the signer’s identity and the Notary is confident the signer is willing and mentally competent, the signer and Notary both sign the document electronically, and the Notary affixes an electronic seal. When finished, the notarized electronic document can be retrieved by the signer at any time.

Remote Notarization Journal Entries

In addition to keeping a journal of the remote online notarization, Notaries are also required to create an audiovisual recording of each remote notarization. Most RON platforms create both the electronic journal entry and the recording of the RON event. If a remote notarization is ever challenged in court, the electronic journal entry and recording provide evidence that the notarization took place as claimed. Depending on state law and the Notary’s business model, Notaries may be permitted to store their audiovisual records through a RON service provider they choose to work with.

Where Remote Online Notarizations Can Be Performed

Remote online notarization is not permitted in all U.S. jurisdictions. As of November 2019, Virginia, Texas, Nevada, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio and Tennessee permit qualifying Notaries to perform RONs. North Dakota also permits remote online notarizations, but the Secretary of State has not published rules for the process. South Dakota limits remote online notarizations to paper documents only. Utah’s remote online notarization law took effect November 1 and, according to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s website, Notaries there may apply for certification to perform remote notarizations. Most of the remaining RON laws will take effect in 2020.

For signers, there are no restrictions on where they can be. A signer literally can be anywhere in the world and still get their document notarized remotely. A Notary, however, must be physically located in the state where they are commissioned.

RON Providers Vs. Independent Services

If you are in a state that permits remote online notarization and want to offer these services as part of your business, there are two main business models available.

The first is signing on with a platform provider — such as NotaryCam or Notarize — that offers remote online notarization services to customers. The RON provider sets up the Notary with access to the company’s platform, trains them how to use the platform and directs customers to the Notary. The second is building your own system.

“The biggest advantages working for a provider is that they take care of all your technology, data privacy and customer service needs for remote online notarizations,” said Dushunna Scott, a Notary from North Chesterfield, Virginia, who has performed remote online notarizations since 2016. In addition, the service provider also stores her audiovisual recordings. Typically, she is on-call for remote notarizations on Wednesday nights and weekends and works as a mobile Notary and Signing Agent during the rest of the week. Scott receives part of the fee for each remote notarization she performs with Notarize, who also pay her for her time spent on-call.

Scott likes utilizing a RON provider because it’s convenient having customers directed to her, and she gets to work from home. “But even though I work with Notarize, I still market myself as an individual Notary,” she said. Remote online notarizations are just one component of her business.

Melissa Johnson Eldridge of Mansfield, Texas, also started out doing remote notarizations through a company, but eventually wanted to strike out on her own. She purchased a web-based, remote online notarization platform from technology provider DocVerify and started her own company, Certified Texas Electronic Notary.

Going independent was very different than using a RON provider that handles customer contact, initial identity screenings and sending the signer’s documents to the Notary. Eldridge had to learn how to do all these things on her own. “I had to simulate a mock remote online notarization by sending a document to myself so I could figure out how to use it,” she said.

“While I had to learn and be responsible for more aspects of the process,” she said. “I work when I choose to and have more flexibility. And I don’t have to share the fee with anyone.”

Concerns About Remote Online Notarizations

Notaries and others — especially those in states that have not adopted remote online notarizations — have raised many questions and concerns about the process.

In a letter to a California State Assembly member opposing a remote online notarization bill, the ACLU cautioned that remote online notarization “… creates significantly greater data privacy issues than traditional notarization.”

Notary Matt Miller of San Francisco, California, who organized opposition to the same RON legislation in California, says his biggest concern is possible electronic privacy breaches of sensitive signer and Notary information.

“How can a Notary be held to account for the exclusive control of their journal data if you have an online platform involved that then sends this data on to yet another third party? Also, what happens when one of these companies goes out of business?” Miller said.

Rick Triola, founder and CEO of NotaryCam, said that his company takes numerous steps to ensure signer and Notary privacy. For example, NotaryCam and other RON platform providers do not retain any KBA answers provided by signers. NotaryCam also follows SOC 2 compliance standards for emergency backups, redundant systems and other protections for remote online notarization journal data, Triola said.

DocVerify’s platform uses encryption to protect stored data from RON recordings as well as other data associated with the notarization, and in most cases the platform exceeds the requirements of state RON laws, said Chief Technology Officer Darcy Mayer.

Remote Online Notarization And Loan Document Signings

Can remote online notarizations be used for loan document signings? Absolutely, said Triola. His company has completed many successful remote loan closings during the past 6 years.

Initially, only Virginia Notaries could only perform remote notarizations. Many experts believed that Virginia Notaries would be able to handle the majority of remote notarizations throughout the country. It turned out, however, that consumers wanted to use remote Notaries from their own states.

Major title underwriters also were reluctant to use out-of-state RON Notaries in those early days, Triola said. As more states start commissioning RON Notaries, that reluctance is dwindling.

Today many lenders are adopting the process because of the convenience to their customers. NotaryCam requires Signing Agents they work with to be NNA certified and background screened, and Triola estimates that approximately 87 percent of U.S. recording offices can accept remotely notarized documents for recording.

Looking To The Future

RON is continuing to gain momentum. Nine new states have passed remote notarization laws that take effect in 2020. That has some Notaries worrying that remote notarization will replace traditional notarizations.

Triola doesn’t see that happening any time soon. “Remote online notarization is not trying to take traditional Notaries out of the equation. It simply gives Notaries a new market for their services where there wasn’t one before,” he said.

Eldridge believes that as more Notaries learn about remote online notarization and understand it better, they will be more confident about using it.

“Lack of knowledge puts fear in us,” she said. “I think when other Notaries truly use it, they will see that it’s even more secure than a traditional notarization.”

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

 

72 Comments

Add your comment

Irvin Dinkins

25 Nov 2019

As a Notary in Pennsylvania, I would be interested in knowing whether Pennsylvania is one of the 9 states that will implement Remote Online Notarizations in 2020?

National Notary Association

25 Nov 2019

Hello. No, Pennsylvania is not one of the states. For the most up-to-date list of states that have enacted remote online notarization legislation, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/06/remote-notarization-what-you-need-to-know

Kendra Spencer

02 Dec 2019

I hope RON is approved in California. I would love to add this to the services I offer. Also to be able to work from home , I love it!!

Tauheedah A Rahim

02 Dec 2019

Hey everybody. This sounds good, but I am very protective of my seal. I believe that when something goes into cyber space, it's lost. Depending on where this document lands, your seal can be copied. I'm not ready to take that chance yet. But, to all notaries that feels that this is a good fit for them, GO FOR IT!

Christopher Norman

03 Dec 2019

Hey Tauheedah, the seal used in RON is not the regular seal but a securely generated set of values that correspond with your physical notary seal. It is highly encrypted with an encryption key for a state certified 3rd party vendor like Identrust. If this key is by any means generated or replicated by any hacker or computer system, it is not going to apend as the decryption key is verified by the vendor before appending. I have tried it and pen-tested it for vulnerabilities but to no avail. It is the same encryption the entire Federal Government uses for all its sensitive records.

Luis

03 Dec 2019

What about Florida?

National Notary Association

06 Dec 2019

Hello. Florida's remote online notarization law takes effect January 1, 2020. For more information, please see here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/06/remote-notarization-what-you-need-to-know. Also please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2019/11/florida-notaries-new-certificate-wording-1-2020

Michael T Holden

03 Dec 2019

I once asked the authorities in NY whether my witness to my onsite signing could witness by way of a video link. No. But non-onsite notarizing?

National Notary Association

06 Dec 2019

Hello. New York does not authorize remote online notarizations at this time. For more information, please see here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/06/remote-notarization-what-you-need-to-know

Ros Po

04 Dec 2019

Is there E&O insurance or cyber insurance coverage for RON notaries public? California may pass RON in 2020 and we are interested if E&O insurance and cyber insurance is available for notaries public.

Charmayne

04 Dec 2019

Any input what we could do to get Pennsylvania to accept RON. Whom would we petition?

Eric

18 Mar 2020

Now is the perfect time to lobby for remote signature in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. What can we do to make that happen while everyone is forced to work remotely?

Lilly

18 Mar 2020

I agree, now is the perfect time to lobby for remote signature in NYS. We perform POA's for many patients at the hospital setting but now it has become a challenge!!!!

Larry

19 Mar 2020

Florida allows remote online notarizations . I need to identify a service company on my application for a separate commission for RON transactions. Does a single platform allow me to serve multiple title companies and lenders?

National Notary Association

19 Mar 2020

Hello. You can contact RON platforms you are considering to ask what title companies and lenders utilize their platform for loan document signings.

Carrie

19 Mar 2020

Is a notarization performed in a state which allows this recognized in states that don't allow it? For example, will Washington D.C. recognize a remote notarization that occurred in Virginia?

National Notary Association

20 Mar 2020

Hello. It would be necessary to contact the specific receiving agency to find out if they would accept a remotely notarized document.

Gabe

21 Mar 2020

Cuomo an EO allowing notarization over VC.

Toby Wolf

23 Mar 2020

I would like to register I am a notary public in NY Thank you

National Notary Association

23 Mar 2020

Hello. New York has issued an emergency Executive Order allowing Notaries to perform notarizations using audiovisual communication under certain conditions during the coronavirus emergency. We will shortly be publishing a Bulletin article with more information, but in the meantime you can read the Executive Order and conditions for New York Notaries here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/no-2027-continuing-temporary-suspension-and-modification-laws-relating-disaster-emergency

Monique

24 Mar 2020

Has NJ put anything in place yet to allow us to notarize remotely and is there anything you suggest we do to prepare for this change.

National Notary Association

24 Mar 2020

Hello. New Jersey has not announced any new updates regarding remote notarization at this time. However, we are continuing to reach out to state agencies for updates on any changes in Notary procedures in this challenging situation. Any new information we receive will be posted in the Bulletin, so please keep checking here for updates.

Colleen Horne

24 Mar 2020

I hope South Carolina is one of the 9 states, that would be awesome.

Barbara Hill

24 Mar 2020

I have been contacting NJ legislators for more than a week and just learned today that there is a bill being voted on in the NJ Assembly tomorrow 3/25/2020 that would "Allow remote notarial acts during Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency declared by Governor".

National Notary Association

25 Mar 2020

Thank you for letting us know, Barbara. As we continue to receive information from states on special coronavirus instructions for Notaries, we will update our Bulletin articles to make this information available to all our readers.

sheff6@gmail.com

26 Mar 2020

What can be done to get California to pass an emergency provision so we can provide remote online notary services? A lot of notaries are older and I think the current guidelines still put us in a very risky situation. We want and need to work. Isn’t there anything NNA can do to advocate for us?

Eriel

27 Mar 2020

I'm curious about the variety of documents that can be notarized through RON platforms, are clients able to upload power of attorneys, proof of residence, and other general notary documents?

Liunda Marrow

27 Mar 2020

California needs to allow remote notarization especially because of the lower interest rates and the fear of COVID-19. Any chance there is pending legislation?

Heidi

29 Mar 2020

Is there a way to look up Virginia Notaries that are RON Certified to utilize them for Foreign National signings?

National Notary Association

30 Mar 2020

Hello. One option you may wish to try is contacting remote Notary platform providers to see if they are working with Virginia Notaries you could contact. A list of some providers can be found at this link: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/06/remote-notarization-what-you-need-to-know

Sheila Gibson

30 Mar 2020

When when Alabama allow RON? I would prefer this at home work. I’m notary

Julie Martin

02 Apr 2020

This needs to be approved in Calfornia NOW. I have real estate transactions falling through because the signor is in quarantine and cannot leave their home. It is horrible that this is being questioned at all.

Jewel

03 Apr 2020

Where can I search if New Mexico an approved state for RON?

National Notary Association

03 Apr 2020

Hello. Information on New Mexico's new video conferencing rules can be found here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/states-emergency-action-remote-notarization

Amber

03 Apr 2020

Would Illinois by chance be one the is becoming a remote notarization state

National Notary Association

06 Apr 2020

Hello. Illinois has approved temporary RON guidelines. Please see here for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/states-emergency-action-remote-notarization

Chastity Saliba

04 Apr 2020

What about New Jersey?

National Notary Association

06 Apr 2020

Hello. Because of the unusually high number of emergency state rules and guidelines being issued at this time, we are still reviewing and confirming information for many states, and are making updates on a regular basis. Please continue to check these articles for updates: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/states-emergency-action-remote-notarization and here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/answers-urgent-questions-notaries-ron

ingeniousunlimited@gmail.com

06 Apr 2020

I may have missed it! I did not see Georgia as part of the RON. Is there information on Georgia? In the meantime, I will search the Secretary of State of Georgia site for information.

National Notary Association

06 Apr 2020

Hello. Georgia has not authorized RON at this time.

Dalene Goodman

06 Apr 2020

How can we get CALIFORNIA on board with this? We need this NOW! Imagine you or a loved one has not made a will, DPOA, POA, etc. and they suddenly find themselves quarantined in a hospital without benefit of being able to have these services done, they are just OUT OF LUCK! During this COVID19 pandemic, we need EMERGENCY approval of this much needed service. They can always choose to rescind it at a later date once the PANDEMIC is over. Step up CALIFORNIA and don't let your residents fall by the wayside. The time to approve this was YEARS ago!

cathy l beck

07 Apr 2020

Can you become a remote notary in Indiana?

National Notary Association

07 Apr 2020

Please see here for information from the Indiana Secretary of State's office: https://inbiz.in.gov/certification/notary#verticalTab5

Joe Moore

08 Apr 2020

RON will hurt notary/signing agents just like Uber hurt traditional taxi drivers. Companies like Notarize already hire and train their own notaries in cubicles for $20 an hour. So they will cut out the traditional Notary/Signing Agent who gets paid around $100 per closing that takes usually around an hour...give or take. It's just common sense and the ruthless nature of business.

Monique

09 Apr 2020

How is the course for RON different from the NNA and with the state you are currently in. I see the NNA offers the class for 39.00 but from my state its 169.00. Is there an advantage for taking the class with the NNA?

National Notary Association

09 Apr 2020

Hello. So we can answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Deon

09 Apr 2020

Have any Notaries been licensed to do RON in Indiana yet?

National Notary Association

09 Apr 2020

Hello. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/06/remote-notarization-what-you-need-to-know

David L. Boyd

12 Apr 2020

how do I get one

National Notary Association

13 Apr 2020

Please see here for additional information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/06/remote-notarization-what-you-need-to-know

Shirley Clark

15 Apr 2020

How do i sign up for this

National Notary Association

15 Apr 2020

Please see here for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/06/remote-notarization-what-you-need-to-know

Heather Rush

15 Apr 2020

Montana has authorized RON however they require Complete an approved course of instruction provided by the technology provider(s) or an approved third-party provider Pass an examination based on the course(s) Where can I find the training course?

National Notary Association

20 Apr 2020

Hello. The training course is not available yet, but we will let you know when we receive more information on this.

Steve

16 Apr 2020

This is a nightmare waiting to happen !!!...... fraudsters are licking their chops and cant wait for the smorgasbord to open ......these companies have no protection of the data and requires very little to no verification of authenticity of the remote signer. They need biometrics that use facial, thumb and signatures which creates tokens for that particular signer........it should be captured and encrypted immediately with high level security If not, this will end up being the biggest nightmare this country has seen in a very long time I have this technology and its very safe and secure.......good luck USA when all the fraud and claims start coming as it will make the 2 trillion dollar bailout seem really cheap

Jessi Smith

02 May 2020

I took the NNA remote online notary classes for Florida, and I'm licensed thru Florida for e-notary. I can tell you the RON provider I chose had multiple levels of security and encryption of data. I think the reason there are only a handful of possible providers is because the state requires such stringent encryption. It is all very safe.

stellargirl22@gmail.com

02 May 2020

I'm interested and concerned about this! Im in TX and I feel like the amount I can charge is too limited by the state. I believe it's capped at 25 for the online service. Looking at how much it costs to setup, then maintain I'm not seeing the numbers representing any sort of risks I'm taking with my own personal liability. Sure I don't have to leave the house, but in TX I have to store recordings too. I'm really uncomfortable with the privacy parts as well and what happens when my ledger PLUS their private info is off in the cloud attached to me sort of under my care. I'm the one providing the "security and convenience" and the cap on how much I can charge is too low. 25 bucks doesn't go far for my time when I have to essentially "train" clients how to use it each time, deal with my own tech support, and expose myself to a lot of liability

Cassandra T.

22 May 2020

Has Illinois passed a RON law yet.

National Notary Association

27 May 2020

Hello. Illinois has temporarily authorized its Notaries to perform RONs. Please see here for information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/states-emergency-action-remote-notarization

Suze Lubin-Koffer

19 Jun 2020

Florida Do I need to submit another RON application in order to switch my RON Provider.

National Notary Association

29 Jun 2020

Hello. If you switch RON providers, you must notify the FL Department of State of the change within 30 days.

Car

22 Jun 2020

I’m a Florida notary already, however I’m temporarily in a different state. Do I have to be physically in Florida for the remote service or is my physical Florida address okay? I’m finding a lot of conflicting information on this. Thanks.

National Notary Association

23 Jun 2020

Hello. You must physically be present within the borders of Florida when performing a remote online notarization.

Veronica Rosaura Przewoznik

04 Jul 2020

I am a notary in Florida. I will take the NNA remote notary classes and I would like to know where can I find a list with the RON providers which is a requirement of the Secretary of State in order to be a certified RON.

National Notary Association

06 Jul 2020

Hello. The Florida Department of State does not recommend nor endorse any particular third party vendors. The basic requirements for vendors’ technology are found under Chapter 117, Florida Statutes, and Chapter 1N-7001, Florida Administrative Register. Additional information and resources for performing RONs in Florida can be found here:https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/remote-online-notary/how-to-become-a-remote-online-notary/florida

lynn

02 Aug 2020

the states need to revise the ron because the cost out ways what the notary is going to make in the end given the time and the risk that the notary is taking having to involve up to two more parties in the notary transaction and by looking at the these sites rules and what they cover their liability is a lot less than what would happen to the notary if something went wrong. and with covid the restrictions are getting tougher on in person contact but it is not being made any easier on the notaries end to provide a service that is much needed also the time that is needed to complete and explain the process to someone who would just like their document notarized and be on their way. there has to be an easier more effective way that the states can come up with that doesn't involve the addition of more hands involved and the risk to the notary

tshairo@outlook.com

09 Sep 2020

Georgia approved RON temporarily due to COVID 19, but it is only for notaries who are attorneys or working under an attorney.

tim smith

24 Sep 2020

what's the point in becoming a notary if a person can just get all their documents notarized online? I fear that only a few notaries will get all the signing, leaving nothing for the other notaries My question is should I be concerned that there will be less work for me as a notary because of the new RON system

National Notary Association

02 Oct 2020

Hello. Please see this article for comments on this question from industry officials: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/07/remote-online-notarization-tipping-point

nora

09 Oct 2020

Does Oregon offer RON?

National Notary Association

12 Oct 2020

Hello. Oregon has temporary remote notarization provisions in place that are in effect until July 2021. You can find more information here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/remote-online-notary/states-that-allow-temporary-remote-notarization#Oregon

rcmcgaugh123@gmail.com

25 Oct 2020

With Covid everywhere I am hoping Alabama adopts RON. They do authorize RIN. RON would be better.

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