Dubai airports nix full-body scanners "out of respect for privacy of individuals and personal freedom"


Full-body scanners will not be used in Dubai airports because the systems "contradict Islam, and out of respect for the privacy of individuals and their personal freedom," said the head of the Dubai police force airport security division, in a Dubai newspaper. Brigadier Pilot Ahmad Mohammad Bin Thani added, "The scanners will be replaced with other inspection systems that reserve travellers' privacy."

(@adamshostack via @ioerror)


  1. The airport security at Dubai declares full body x-rays don’t respect a traveler’s right to privacy and personal freedom but our government continues to force its citizens to play its charade. oh, the irony!

  2. Am I alone in thinking these things aren’t really all that invasive? Just properly secure the machines so the pictures can’t be saved and go ahead.

    The dude getting paid $14/hour to look at off-putting and weird human silhouettes will very quickly tire of it; it’ll turn into just another job for him.

    I consider this a whole lot less invasive than having that same guy feel up every part of me except my crotch (a technique that, by the way, makes it pretty obvious where you should hide your nonmetallic contraband).

    I can’t see how these scanners represent a loss of freedom – either theoretical or practical. So can someone provide a reason why they’d consider this invasive, aside from a prudish discomfort with having a stranger view a semi-nude image of you for ten seconds?

    1. 1. There is no way to ‘properly secure’. It’s already been shown all the different ways in which the pictures can be had, and leaked. (take a mobile photo of the screen, for example).

      2. “The dude getting paid $14/hour to look at off-putting and weird human silhouettes will very quickly tire of it” – That is, until some celebrity goes through, or some hot chick, or minor (depending on preference), or ex-wife, or… (think CCTV abuse, but in naked-o-cam).

      3. “less invasive than”… it’s a comfortable way to treat everyone like a suspect, to reduce them to their most indignified selves and to be reduced to cattle-status.

      4. “I can’t see how these scanners represent a loss of freedom”
      When not only your every move is being monitored, but it’s also being done sans-clothes, isn’t that a tad worrying? What did we do before, back in the day when there were as many terrorist-in-a-plane incidents as there are now, but we just didn’t think it warranted trampling over our individual rights? There are those much more articulate than I, but I am baffled that there still are so many people with no problems at being stripped searched on camera to get on a plane. When they do that to get into a bank, a train or a cinema, will that be OK too?

    2. If I feel the full body x-rays are an invasion of my privacy no one has the right to question it. Of course it’s an invasion of privacy. You’ve just learned to accept the continuing downward spiral of the loss of our freedoms and humanity. We are treated like criminals and herded like cattle in our own country. At what point of new anti-terrorist gadgets and procedures will you draw the line? These “protections” are nothing more than burgeoning industries and will never let go now that the cash is coming in, like privatized prisons and the huge incarceration of petty criminals–all funded by you and me, the tax payers. Do you really feel safer flying when you know the cargo doesn’t go through the same scrutiny? Last, but not least, planes crash once in a while. Flying has never been 100% safe. Maybe we should have a choice: get on a plane with pre-9/11 security and you take your chances, or go through the fake security and since you can’t lock your baggage, hope nothing is missing when you get to your arrival. Let’s call the plane with sane security practices “free range flying”.

      1. Well, the argument to counter that is that the powers that be don’t want free range flyers flying planes into buildings – not that I don’t agree with you – it is true that it’s got rather crazy with the security theater.

        1. Even 23 years ago I experienced a certain amount of security in European airports that didn’t exist in the U.S. One time I was taken to a private booth with for a non-invasive pat down. There were a lot of bombings and trucks filled with armed soldiers patrolled the streets of Paris. Still, the airport security managed to balance real concerns with respect for the air travelers. El Al figured out how to maintain strict security with the least trouble to its passengers. Why do we have to re-invent the wheel and when do we get our guts back? The way things are going, the bad guys (and there are really very few of them) have won.

    3. I can’t see how these scanners represent a loss of freedom – either theoretical or practical. So can someone provide a reason why they’d consider this invasive, aside from a prudish discomfort with having a stranger view a semi-nude image of you for ten seconds?

      It’s ok, after a while you get used to the feel of restraints and chains.

    4. Okay so if the argument is that this full body scanner is NOT that invasive… Then what on god’s green earth WOULD be invasive to one’s privacy????
      I mean we’ve pretty much gotten to the bare essentials of a person: to have a stranger stare and scrutinize your naked body.
      Would a rectal camera make you feel that it’s unreasonable invasion of your privacy? After all, the operator who gets paid $14 would probably get tired of looking at anuses day after day and as long as the images stay secure, it wouldn’t be an issue right?

      1. No one is ‘scrutinizing your naked body’. Jeeze! It’s a 3 second event. See those 2 people in the ‘scanner’ picture up there? I see that pic all the time. I doubt people are checking them out in some sexual or attractiveness level. If you are, hey, let your freak flag fly but don’t become a screener ’cause you’ll lose the thrill quickly. To me, people’s worry about others seeing their ‘scans’ (in which we are unrecognizable) says more negative things about the state of humanity than the continued upping of Airport Security Theater.

        1. @JasonsRobot
          FYI in Islam there a lil’ sumthin known as MODESTY.
          and its THAT which has to do with the covering and all. NOT DISCRIMINATION OF WOMEN or sexual temptation or whatsoever!!
          seriously, if it werent4 modesty all the burkas wouldn’t even be in slam. Believe me I, as a muslim, know about this.
          please confirm things about religion b4 u go about blindly accepting them. It’s something i believe is wrong really.

          PS: and btw same goes 4 ALL other religions, not just Islam.

          1. I don’t want others to see my genitalia because otherwise they might be jealous. That’s totally why I’m against that scanner… I’m just too modest…

            Little piece of advice here: claiming to be modest is everything but modest.

    5. Am I alone in thinking these things aren’t really all that invasive? Just (do something that is technologically impossible) and go ahead.

      Have you heard of a camera phone?

      Would you volunteer to let me examine you without your clothing for weapons and contraband? It’s only one person, right? That’s not an invasion of privacy, right? Hold still, now…

    6. I’ll leave the overarching privacy discussion to others – there are others on BoingBoing better equipped to have that talk than I – but I will say that yes, I do have a very strong personal reason for not wanting my body scanned.

      I am transgender and intersexed. I have an unusually configured body, and non-standard genitalia. I am visibly of non-standard gender even clothed; my body and my presentation are both leaning towards female, but ambiguous nonetheless. That is who I am.

      I’ve been subjected to violence for my identity before – I’ve had rocks thrown at me, been punched in the face, and once was beaten unconscious by five guys. I woke up in the emergency room, minus two teeth.

      I should think that my biggest reasons for not wanting to be scanned are fairly obvious – I don’t want the details of my gender and in the peculiarities of my body revealed to random (and potentially bigoted) airport employees, let alone have them actually look at my genitalia. I’ve been humiliated plenty in my life already for being queer and trans. I shouldn’t have to put up with it again. Flying while trans carries plenty of potential for humiliation to begin with, what with airline employees and government employees rifling through one’s paperwork.

      My issues plug into a larger field of concerns about these scanners, though; plenty of people have unusual bodies that could be snickered at by unscrupulous screeners, things that they don’t want to have to show to strangers. People have unusual-looking genitalia, large surgery scars, breasts that had to be removed due to cancer, and so on. They should not have to stand for examination by a potentially hostile audience just in order to step on an airplane.

    7. It looks like you are very alone! Wanting to have some privacy about one’s naked body is hardly “prudish”.

      Imagine what it would be like for transgendered people to have their sex organs, even a vague outline of them, looked at every time they fly.

      What’s the point of even having clothing if we are going to let some arbitrarily empowered people look under it?

      There are so many people who abuse their authority and access to private information about people that it is impossible to trust that all the people viewing these images will behave appropriately.

  3. Instead of for security theater they should be used for free medical scans and in their private medical info. Catch cancer early, save lives.

    1. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be an effective use of government money either. Full body medical scans done as a screening, throw up way more false positives then actual cancer. Much like airport security, we should have a reason to use the technology and not deploy it on a mass bases.

  4. I flew back to the US via Dubai last month and at the gate, women were queued up separately by a booth and then at a table, to have their handbags checked item-by-item. In the booth, a burka-clad woman silently and rather grimly ran her hands all over my breasts (over my t-shirt) without the slightest warning. I had no forewarning, no idea I would have a search in the booth, I only thought the line was winding around it to the handbag check.

    It was completely unexpected and maybe because of that, pretty demeaning.

    1. On a flight in India I had the “pleasure” of being frisked in the ladies only booth. The lady squeezed both breasts, ran her hands roughly along my inner thighs, and under my butt. I didn’t know to be prepared for it. The whole experience was a bit…erm… forceful. Not to mention humiliating.

  5. I don’t think someone actively grabbing at my junk through my clothes is more freedom-y than someone passively seeing a glowie silhouette of said junk on a screen.
    C’mon peeps. We all have funky, lumpy bodies. Big whoop. If you don’t want to go through The Man’s machine, you can opt for a one-on-one pat down. Some of us prefer expediency over the possibility of someone getting a copy of our specific scan and posting the unrecognizable outline of body parts to some blog.

    1. Junk, schmunk. Guess what? None of the security in the world will ever stop someone who really wants to do something horrific. And technology is not the answer.

      Case in point: Times Square is the most policed and monitored place in NYC if not America. Guess who spotted the van bomber a few months back? Not cops, cameras or tech. But two Vietnam vet t-shirt vendors who are out on the street to make a living and pay attention to their surroundings.

      That’s the perverse world we live in. The things we think protect us aren’t protecting us. Yet it’s often the members of society that people ignore who become the “Boo Radley” of a scenario and save lives.

      What a world.

  6. As a pre-op transsexual, I do NOT appreciate the concept of these horrible full body scans. I pass easily in my new gender (female) and don’t need some TSA jerks pointing and snickering once I am forcibly outed to them, via this loathsome device.

    This is all ridiculous and useless security theater anyways, as there are near infinite ways to still compromise a plane’s security. Take the apparently frequently corrupt airport personnel that steal from luggage, as an example. I bet they could be easily bribed, too, to place something extra on the plane or look the other way, etc.

    1. You don’t have to bribe a luggage handler, just find a corrupt one and blackmail him. Or threaten his family. And how about maintenance engineers?
      BTW, what’s that thing on the guy’s shoulder – a deflated parrot?

  7. “contradict Islam, and out of respect for the privacy of individuals and their personal freedom…”

    This contradicts Islam but stoning and beheadings don’t?

    1. Ha! Oh the cute little nuances of religion.
      I recently heard that one reason some Islamic women have to cover their whole body is so men don’t get sexually tempted by them. You see, it’s the woman’s fault if a man can’t control himself when he sees her ankle and rapes her. Actually, I think getting raped is cause for her to be stoned or beheaded… because, uh.. she violated the man’s personal freedom, I’m assuming?
      Good thing Christianity doesn’t disrespect women.

  8. I don’t think airport scanners are that bad. I also don’t see any reason why we can’t install CCTV cameras in every home. Imagine if the cameras are always on, but the footage would never be examined unless you are accused of a crime. So you would maintain your “right to privacy” unless you had to go to trial. Makes sense, right? If you haven’t committed any crimes yourself, and you have no intention of doing so, and you want to see criminals go to jail, then you have no reason to oppose this.

    Another idea might be to implant people with GPS “taser chips”. This way police have the ability to track and remotely incapacitate people even from miles away. No more kidnappings, no more hostage situations, no more prison riots etc… Just a little ZAP from headquarters, and it’s all over. It seems logical to me. Why shouldn’t we do this?

    At some point, we need to ask ourselves why we’re sooo interested in protecting criminals, because we now have technology available to us that could conceivably end all violence, terrorism, and crime forever. We have to weigh what is more important to us, the right to hide that which is illegal or the right to live in peace and security?

    After all, most of this bleating on about “privacy” is coming from overly self-centered people. You see, no one wants to read your diary or watch you shave. You’re too boring. We don’t care. We just want to catch the bad guys. So if you will calm down and just accept these new security measures, you will find that nothing will change in your life. Unless you’re a terrorist or a criminal.

    1. i volunteer for a GPS taser chip because i’m a good little consumer who will never do anything wrong. i’d never break a speed limit or park at an expired meter. i’d never download anything i didn’t pay for. i’d never march in the streets with 100,000 of my closest friends to protest the G20. no, not me. i do what i’m told

  9. I like #27.

    In fact I think Cory’s next book should be about this dystopian future society #27 has imagined.

  10. Well I guess they figure if terrorists were looking for a place to board, maybe Dubai is out of their price range?

  11. Eh… Honestly, I don’t know where I sit on an issue like this.

    I think airline security is a farce and is an incredible waste of time and money. No one is safer for having done it, everyone is later for having done it and I wonder how long it’ll continue.

    That said, I don’t think it’s a violation of anyone’s inalienable rights since flying is a choice. You can turn around and leave anytime you want.

    When I’ve mentioned that before I’ve heard things like “Oh, so am I supposed to walk from the US to India?!”. My response may be overly pragmatic with, “No. You take a boat or you just don’t go”.

    Air travel is an amazing example of human ingenuity and technology. The fact that we can move hundred and thousands of times faster and further than we could on our own two legs changes the world… but it’s not something that is entitled to every man woman and child.

    To me there’s a very real difference between being forced to do something (i.e. You’re walking down the street, the police stop you and insist you get a full body scan. You don’t have any options here. Do it or get arrested and possibly both.) and needing to comply with certain rules in a situation you choose to enter and leave of your own free will.

    Flying is a luxury and a choice.

    If your job forces you to fly, then you choose to work in a position where it’s required of you.

    If a family member is gravely ill and you need to be by their side, then this is an unfortunate factor you must weigh when making a decision. No more or less so than if my father was dying and I had no money to even buy a ticket – I don’t have an inherent human right to fly free because I’m in a family crisis. I’d have to make other arrangements. Even bereavement rates airlines would offer usually aren’t any less expensive then what you can pull off of the internet.

    If you are mortally ill with a serious disease and need to travel to some place for some reason, it’s a shitty shitty choice you’re making… but you are choosing to go to other medical attention. But before you say “AHA!!”, put yourself in that situation; You have a horrible wasting disease that you might be able to get help with, do you care if someone sees the outline of your naked body? Is that something you would rather die than do?

    A situation where a mandatory check point like they do with drunk drivers, where citizens who are going about their otherwise daily and private lives are then put to a choice: You must scan or you get put in jail until we can determine who you are. That is being deprived of your rights. If they had a portable scanner that they could come to your house or even select you out of a crowd in a public place. You are not given the choice to keep your rights. You are either giving up your right to privacy or your right to personal freedom. In such situations, I’ll fight along side you guys.

    Choosing to fly when you know they have these scanners is not being deprived of your right to privacy any more than you are being deprived of your right to personal property when you pay for the ticket. You are not being deprived of your personal freedom by having to wear a seat belt or not using your cellphone (which is a pseudo-science bullshit rule, by the way).

    It’s just not a question of ‘how many of your rights are you willing to give up’. When I go to a library and they ask me to throw away my ice cream cone, I don’t say “You have no right to deprive me of personal property without due process!”.

    Maybe I just don’t care who sees me naked.

    1. Yes, flying is a choice, but that is not the point. The point is that we citizens have a right to say what the requirements for flying should be, and many people, myself included, find inappropriate to request my fellow citizens to undergo the humiliating process that is currently required to allow them to board a plane. So, what we are discussing here is not your choice to fly or my choice not to fly given the current regulations, but whether the current regulations make sense and whether they should be upheld or discarded. Social and political discussions are also a choice, so I am fine with anyone choosing not to participate, just as I expect everyone to be fine with my protesting of the current regulations.

      1. @setatious

        I see what you’re saying and agree with it. Like I said, I’m sorta on the fence with this one because I agree with your point. I feel this is all a valid discussion about policies and procedures.

        Mostly my post was addressing people who call this sort of thing a violation of their rights. To me, your rights are something you alone choose to protect or yield.

        Losing them, again to me, is a situation where… your right to free speech is pitted against your right freedom. You can say what you want and go to jail, or you can stay quiet and go home. Where you literally have to choose which one you can exercise. That’s a violation of your rights. When that school district issued kids laptops and then spied on them at home? That’s a violation of your rights. You never willing waved certain aspects of your privacy, they were forcibly removed.

        I suppose I worry about how we phrase things since it can dilute the impact later on.


        “Your definition of choice is quite loose. You say flying is always a choice because people choose their jobs. However in that case it’s their jobs they chose, not to fly.”

        Did you come up with that on your own, or are you just rephrasing when I said:

        If your job forces you to fly, then you choose to work in a position where it’s required of you.

        Because, I have to spend thousands of dollars a year in parking for my job… My job is worth it to me to have to fight my way downtown, find a parking spot and pay out the ass for it. I may not like it, but it’s required by the job I accepted. In no uncertain terms, I choose to pay to park.

        “Also taking the boat is more expensive and time consuming than flying, some don’t have other options than taking the plane. So basically you’re wrong.”

        Let’s simplify your argument from three terms (time, money and logistics) to one and impart to it a sense of urgency. This isn’t a vacation, this is serious: My father is dying and I have no money. I have no way of paying for an airline ticket. Are they violating my rights for not letting me fly free? No. Does it suck? Yes!! Am I angry? Extremely. Were any of my personal rights and freedoms stripped from me? Again, no.

        You do NOT have, as part of your inherent human dignity, the inexorable right to convenience. Just because something costs more or takes longer, it’s not a violation of your rights.

        1. Beware the straw man argument, for the straw man wears a mask with your own likeness on it. In winning that argument you risk your credibility.

          “Choice” is a word of privilege, with which you seem familiar, but this is a post about Dubai where that word is reserved EVEN MORE SO than in the US.

        2. “Did you come up with that on your own, or are you just rephrasing”

          Rephrasing to make the distinction clear. That apparently didn’t work out too well.

          “In no uncertain terms, I choose to pay to park.”

          Again, no. You said it twice yourself now: you choose your job which then forces you to park. You accept paying parking as a consequence of your choice of job. In other words you can take responsibility for the consequence of your choice, but you don’t choose the consequence itself. Just because something follows a choice doesn’t mean it’s a choice too. For example, nobody would choose full-body scans if they had an option.

          “I have no way of paying for an airline ticket. Are they violating my rights for not letting me fly free?”

          I never said that flying is a right, I said that some don’t have a choice but to take the plane. It goes both ways: if you don’t have the money to fly you don’t actually choose not to fly; you don’t have another option.

          And regardless of choice, the parking analogy doesn’t work because your dignity isn’t violated in the process. You’re just forced to pay the parking like someone is forced to pay for the plane ticket. That’s obviously not the problem.

    2. “…flying is a choice…”

      Your definition of choice is quite loose. You say flying is always a choice because people choose their jobs. However in that case it’s their jobs they chose, not to fly. Also taking the boat is more expensive and time consuming than flying, some don’t have other options than taking the plane. So basically you’re wrong.

  12. Privacy issues aside for the moment; what does the guy have on his shoulder?!? Is that a LIZARD????!???

  13. Are you serious #27? You don’t think people need privacy but you post as anon! Stand by your principles and get your real name up there.

  14. In response to the many comments directed at me…

    Actually I’m acutely aware of and extremely uncomfortable with the growing surveillance state: I just don’t think this is an example of it.

    It’s a scanner at an airport lineup: it’s operated in a narrowly defined location and set of circumstances. It’s nothing like ubiquitous CCTV. It’s not “your every move being monitored” but rather “a single picture taken of you, with your knowledge, at a very specific time and place. And you’re kind of sort of naked.” A bit of a difference.

    It’s *useful* (unlike much of the security theatre) and, in my view, non-invasive. Maybe it’s just because I don’t really care if someone sees a ghostlike silhouette of my wang, especially if that person is a qualified professional and there are controls in place to make sure the images don’t leak.

    And to everyone freaking out about camera phones and such: it’s not hard to confiscate them from screeners and set up appropriate penalties for contravention of the rule. Professionals in many fields are entrusted with private information, and by and large they respect the rules of their professions.

    Where ‘rights’ are concerned… if a guy in a room sees a photo of my wang and it never leaves that room, has something been taken from me? I just can’t see it. Everyone who’s comparing this to a strip-search needs a reality check… yes, both end up with someone seeing you naked, but there’s a world of difference between actually having to go through the motions and just walking past a machine. Having some total stranger physically molest me is way, way more invasive and uncomfortable. Or maybe just annoying.

    I guess what it comes down to is that I don’t give a damn what they look at in an airport security lineup, as long as I don’t have to be physically inconvenienced.

  15. You have truly constructed a straw army.

    We object to security theater being policy, and to giving hall monitors powers of arrest, that is all.

  16. “Are you serious #27? You don’t think people need privacy but you post as anon! Stand by your principles and get your real name up there.

    Yours truly,


  17. I have a problem with them and I’m perfectly willing to take pictures/have pictures taken of my body and display them publicly.

    That is because it’s my choice and in my control. As it always should be.

    People will and do find a way to leak these. They pass them around as a joke. They harass people based on what they see in them.

    Until we have a world where that absolutely never happens then they are unethical.

  18. Consider me among the relatively small group of not giving a damn about this. Syncrotic and Blaine may have a few technical flaws with their arguments, but their opposition has been nearly 100% strawman.

    The ONLY actual argument I’ve seen about these even being damaging (not even necessarily a violation of rights, but just bad) is the Trans argument. And you know what, it does suck for them – but I don’t see how it is any worse than a strip search. Are strip searches also immoral violations of our rights to privacy? Hell, they could probably take pictures of you during the strip search with their camera phones, you know… I mean, there’s nothing stopping them, right?

    The whole basis for the need for privacy is an issue of control – information is power, and when its use and access is unbalanced, it leads to corruption and abuse. I’m honestly fine with CCTVs, as long as the power unbalance is corrected by allowing public access to them in disputed with the police. But I’m just not seeing how an optional procedure like this gives this organization any more actual power than it already has, and unlike CCTVs, it is something you must actually agree to before it occurs.

    Some people who have something to hide may be open to petty vindictiveness by individual employees, and with minimal benefits to the this procedure that might be enough to justify opposing it – but to oppose it on some inane proposition of a right to privacy where it doesn’t even make sense, that is just absurd.

    1. Consider me among the relatively small group of not giving a damn about this.

      Good for you.

      I don’t like being seen naked by strangers. It makes me feel uncomfortable that’s all. Why should something I don’t like be forced upon me just because you (and others like you) are fine with it?

    1. I would be highly dubious of any news source dubbing itself, in part, ‘zee’ instead of the proper ‘zed’!

  19. So… there are places that can be gotten to “only” by commercial aircraft. Neither by boat nor by any sort of ground transportation, but only by air. The ONLY way to get there is to fly.


    If enough people were unhappy enough with the present situation that they refused to fly until people were allowed to board planes without their privacy being violated, the rules might be changed. The majority obviously accepts that the embarassment is worth the reduction of risk and are voting with their ticket money.
    Are they stupid? Not for me to say. I’m free to suck it up and deal with it, or not fly… and there hasn’t been a place I need to get to, yet, that I haven’t been able to get to one way or another under circumstances I’m willing to accept.

    It isn’t “forced.” If you can’t deal with it, really, do not fly. Find another way. You’ll figure it out.

    1. I’m sure it’s nice to have a job that doesn’t involve flying, but that’s not an option for a large number of people.

      Imagine if everyone had to get a full body scan before getting into a car or bus (since the Glasgow airport terrorists used a car). You can try and argue that those that don’t like it can walk everywhere, but I doubt you’d get much sympathy.

      “Well it doesn’t affect me, so what’s the harm” is never a good argument.

      To paraphrase, when they came for the men with embarrassingly small penises, I said nothing because I wasn’t embarrassed. Wait, I mean because I don’t have a small penis.

    2. “there hasn’t been a place I need to get to, yet, that I haven’t been able to get to one way or another under circumstances I’m willing to accept.”

      What if at some point they introduce circumstances you wouldn’t be willing to accept? Would a possibility to find a different way to travel make you any less entitled to criticize such circumstances? See the logical fallacy?

  20. It is not just about privacy. i agree that it is an invasive measure because it is your body after all and it’s your right to choose who can see your body or not. Even if you don’t mind going through the body scanner, some people do mind and they should not be forced to go through it. The metal detectors were not intrusive as they were only meant to detect metals. But mapping your body, having naked and possibly recorded images of your body is a whole different story (cannot trust anyone based on some promises they are not recording). For those of you who don’t care and think it’s no big deal. You have to consider that the future is unpredictable. Governments cannot be trusted…look at your history books.
    What if our Governments turn into dictatorships…with this kind of technologies they are putting in place, it would be much harder to create a resistance…
    Cameras, body scanners, CCTVs, RFID…etc…where will it stop? The system is being put in place…once it is, once your free speech is gone totally…they will find you, track you anywhere…so why not stopping this now and make sure that this probability will not happen…

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