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Printing in Privacy

National Museum of American History

Happy Are Those Whom Privacy Makes Innocent

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Predictions for Privacy in the Age of Facebook (from 1985!)

Smithsonian Magazine
Mark Zuckerberg wasn't even a year old when a graduate student foresaw the emergence of online personal profiles

Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA: Early Concept for Mobile Privacy Screens on Terraces

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Sketch for an early concept of mobile privacy screens located on the terraces of Aqua Tower

World Habitat Classroom Activities

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teacher-created lesson in which students consider whether everyone in their community has access to adequate shelter. They write a persuasive paper on the subject.

Thanks to the FCC, You Might Soon Have More Control Over Your Personal Data

Smithsonian Magazine

For many internet service providers and wireless phone companies, the most profitable thing about customers isn’t the bills they pay: it’s their personal data. Everything from users' most frequented websites to the information they search for online can be packaged and sold to advertisers who can, in turn, target users with ads and commercials personalized to their data. Now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to implement new privacy rules that put that data back in the customers' hands.

Last week, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced a new set of proposed privacy rules that could change how internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast treat their subscribers' personal data. If the proposal is passed during an FCC vote later this month, the commission could soon draft rules preventing ISPs from selling their subscribers' data to third party companies without explicit permission, Jon Brodkin reports for Ars Technica.

"Your ISP handles all of your network traffic," Wheeler wrote in an article for the Huffington Post. "That means it has a broad view of all of your unencrypted online activity—when you are online, the websites you visit, and the apps you use."

Wheeler’s proposal would require ISPs to clearly disclose how users’ data might be collected. This is in line with a recent decision by the regulatory agency to treat ISPs as utility companies, like electric and gas providers.

If the FCC decides to go ahead and draft new rules based on the proposal, it would place these companies under tighter oversight than other tech companies like Facebook and Google, which also profit off of collecting and reselling their users' data, but are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, Cecilia Kang reports for the New York Times.

“This is nothing short of a historic moment,” Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the privacy advocacy group, the Center for Digital Democracy, tells Kang. “Unlike the Federal Trade Commission, the FCC has the legal authority to enact safeguards that will allow an individual to have real control over how their information can be gathered and used.”

Privacy advocates have had mixed reactions to the proposal, however. Peter Micek, global policy and legal counsel at the digital rights organzation Access Now, argues that the proposal doesn’t go far enough in protecting the privacy of everyday internet users, Nicholas Deleon reports for Motherboard.

"The rule, as proposed, would allow private data to be shared or sold to marketing companies that create detailed profiles of customers," Micek tells Deleon. "And yet, the rules provide few positive rights for consumers. There is no new right to access, modify, or delete this personal information, or to take that data to another provider if a customer wishes to switch ISPs.”

Currently, several large ISPs are fighting the FCC’s decision to classify them as utility companies, arguing that they collect less data than companies like Facebook and Google. As it stands, the proposal will be put to a vote by the FCC on March 31.

Tate Modern Neighbors Lose Legal Battle Against Peeping Visitors

Smithsonian Magazine

A 10th floor terrace at Tate Modern in London offers a spectacular view of the city; from this elevated vantage point, you can get a good look at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, Houses of Parliament and other landmarks that dot the streets of London. Some visitors, however, prefer to peer into the luxury apartments, equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows, that sit across from the art museum. Residents launched a legal battle in an effort to put a stop to the peeping, but as Alex Marshall reports for the New York Times, a judge has ruled in favor of Tate.

“These properties are impressive, and no doubt there are great advantages to be enjoyed in such extensive glassed views,” British High Court Justice Anthony Mann said of the apartments, according to Marshall. “But that in effect comes at a price in terms of privacy.”

The viewing platform at the heart of the legal tussle is part of the museum’s Blavatnik Building, an extension that opened to the public in 2016. Residents who occupy the multi-million dollar flats across the road were suddenly greeted by strangers waving at them, taking pictures of their apartments and even making obscene gestures at them.

In 2017, four owners in the building, which is part of a development known as Neo Bankside, sued Tate, citing a “relentless” invasion of privacy that in turn prevented the residence from being “a secure home for young children.” They wanted the gallery to either “restrict access to parts of the terrace adjacent to their homes or to erect a screen,” Marshall reported in November. For its part, Tate argued that its plans for the terrace were public knowledge when the apartments were being sold. The museum also suggested that residents install blinds.

The complaints of the apartment owners were, generally speaking, met with little sympathy from the public. In the midst of the legal battle, the artist Max Siedentopf installed binoculars around the observation platform so visitors could get an even better look into the residences. The installation was not authorized, and Tate took it down.

Justice Mann visited both the gallery and the apartments before reaching his decision, according to the Guardian’s Mark Brown. Mann acknowledged that “a significant number of people ... demonstrate a visual interest in the interior of the flats” (obscene gestures, he opined, are “probably very rare”). But the justice did not grant the residents’ request to close or block off part of the platform. He issued a similar recommendation to that of the museum: apartment owners concerned about their privacy can put up curtains, “lower their solar blinds,” or even place tall plants in front of their windows to obstruct the view into their homes.

Mann noted that his ruling is contingent on Tate Modern upholding two measures put in place to appease the institution’s neighbors. The museum had previously reduced the platform’s opening hours, and installed guards on the terrace to stop visitors from taking pictures of the residences.

“The level 10 viewing platform is an important part of Tate Modern’s public offer and we are pleased it will remain available to our visitors,” a Tate spokesperson said after the judgement was issued. “We continue to be mindful of the amenity of our neighbours and the role Tate Modern has to play in the local community.”

Natasha Rees, a lawyer representing the residents, was not quite as satisfied with the outcome of the lawsuit. “The limited steps taken by the Tate to prevent visitors viewing into my clients’ apartments are ineffective,” she said, according to Brown. “Both my clients and their families will have to continue to live with this daily intrusion into their privacy. We are considering an appeal.”

NASA’s Twin Study May Never Be Published

Smithsonian Magazine

NASA is beginning it unprecedented study on the effects of space flight on twins—by following Scott and Mark Kelly, the twin astronauts, the agency hopes to learn more about the effects of long-term space travel. But as Scott Kelly prepares for Friday’s journey to the International Space Station, questions are being raised about whether privacy concerns will prevent the study from ever seeing the light of day.

Scott Kelly will be part of NASA’s first one-year crew, which will help the agency prepare for eventual Mars exploration by conducting research on both Scott and his Earth-bound brother. Discover News reports that the mission will mark the first “orbit-versus-Earth comparative analysis of two genetically identical people,” looking at data on everything from the twin’s vision to their behavioral and mental health.

But the twins will also have their genome sequenced and studied—results that Nature’s Alexandra Witze reports “may never be published” should sensitive medical information be revealed. Though companies like 23andMe and Genentech claim that they can keep genetic data anonymous, that’s a luxury that won’t be shared by the easily-identifiable Kelly twins, who could decide to limit or refuse access to their genetic data for privacy reasons.

However, the possibility that NASA’s genetic studies may never reach the public eye doesn’t necessarily mean that the data won’t be used by the agency. In a release, NASA notes that data from the mission will be used to see if there are ways to reduce the risk of future long-duration missions to places like Mars. Though the brothers may opt not to release their genomic sequence to the public, it’s unlikely they would withhold data from the historic tests from the agency who made them possible.

David Warmflash of the Genetic Literacy Project predicts that genetic privacy will become a bigger issue for ordinary people in the coming years, too, as safeguards fail to keep pace with innovation. Despite calls for stricter genetic privacy rules, he reports, genetic information can easily be cross-checked against metadata to help “triangulate the identity of a certain person.” There’s no need to worry about genetic privacy if you haven’t participated in a medical study or submitted your genetic information in order to get more information about your family history or genetic roots, though. At least, not yet.

Why’s Wikimedia Suing the NSA?

Smithsonian Magazine

When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on NSA’s digital surveillance programs, he triggered a fierce debate about a privacy and online communication in America: Is mass surveillance of internet traffic a necessary precaution or a violation of the U.S. Constitution? Now this question is headed to court: a group of media and human rights organizations are suing the NSA over its mass surveillance program.

The lead plantiff in the case is the Wikimedia Foundation—the non-profit arm of Wikipedia. In a release about the lawsuit, Wikimedia says its aim is to end “upstream” surveillance—the NSA’s practice of intercepting and listening in on American internet traffic:

“We’re filing suit today on behalf of our readers and editors everywhere,” said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. “Surveillance erodes the original promise of the internet: an open space for collaboration and experimentation, and a place free from fear.”

Wikimedia argues that the wide net cast by NSA surveillance challenges both the Foundation’s mission and endangers its users’ privacy. By interpreting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act as supportive of widespread monitoring of internet traffic, the Foundation claims, NSA has exceeded its authority and violates First Amendment rights to free speech and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

The Wikimedia Foundation will join nine othe groups, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, The Nation Magazine and the Washington Office on Latin America, in its lawsuit. The suit is being filed by the ACLU, which told Reuters that NSA’s dragnet-style surveillance system “constitutes a massive invasion of privacy, and…undermines the freedoms of expression and inquiry as well.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of similar legal challenges brought by pro-privacy groups in the U.K., TechCrunch reports. In an editorial published in today’s New York Times, Wales—along with the Wikimedia Foundation's executive direction, Lila Tretikov—argue that their legal action will benefit users worldwide. The chilling effect caused by widespread surveillance, they argue, “represents a loss for everyone who uses Wikipedia and the Internet—not just fellow editors, but hundreds of millions of readers in the United States and around the world.”

Design for Daybed

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Design for bed showing headboard consisting of 5 vertical panels. From left to right, a privacy panel, a square panel, a lower center panel, another square panel followed by a privacy panel. The footboard echoes the design of the headboard. The bed sits on four blocks decorated with a simple carved curl motif. Floor mats on either side of the bed, coordinate with the rounded elements of the bed and the green accent color.

Inventing the Surveillance Society: Keynote and Panel 1

Lemelson Center, National Museum of American History
KEYNOTE ADDRESS "Google's Goldfish: Living with Surveillance" David Lyon, Director, Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen's Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Professor of Sociology and Professor of Law, Queen's University, Kingston Ontario INVENTING THE SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY: PART 1 "Nineteenth-Century 'New' Media and the History of Modern Surveillance" Josh Lauer, Assistant Professor of Media Studies, University of New Hampshire "Evolution of Video Surveillance: 3VR's Video Intelligence Platform" Al Shipp, CEO/President, 3VR, Inc. "Integrating Privacy Protections: Perspectives on the Surveillance Society" Jonathan Cantor, Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, US Dept. of Homeland Security Session Moderator Jeffrey L. Brodie, Deputy Director, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History

Pedophiles Seem to Make Up a Huge Chunk of Anonymized Web Traffic

Smithsonian Magazine

A new study into how people use the anonymized and encrypted side of the internet—the so-called Dark Web—is a reminder that though computer privacy tools can be used for good, they can also be used for terrible ills.

As Andy Greenberg writes for Wired, a new study by University of Portsmouth computer scientist Gareth Owen found that of the computer connections to websites that are specifically designed to be untraceable, the bulk are going to sites that host child pornography.

More than four out of five Tor hidden services site visits were to online destinations with pedophilia materials, according to Owen’s study. That’s over five times as many as any of the other categories of content that he and his researchers found in their Dark Web survey, such as gambling, bitcoin-related sites or anonymous whistle-blowing.

As Nick Mathewson points out on the blog of the Tor project (a provideor of anonymized web services and tools), there are a number of reasons why hits to child pornography websites could skew high. One of the reasons, he notes, is that rather than a lot of people looking at these sites, it could be a smaller number of people looking at a large number of sites. “The greater the number of distinct hidden services a person visits, and the less reliable those sites are, the more hidden service directory requests they will trigger,” writes Mathewson.

Wired's Greenberg and researcher Owen were both careful to note that high number of hits to child porn sites could possibly be explained by factors other than just that a large number are using anonymized web services to host and trawl child pornography.

Tor's Mathewson's clarifications don't come as a way to defend this particular sect of Dark Web users. Rather, he suggests the finding points to flaws in how the Dark Web works:

Any system that provides security on the Internet will inevitably see some use by bad people that we'd rather not help at all. After all, cars are used for getaways, and window shades conceal all kinds of criminality. The only way to make a privacy tool that nobody abuses is to make it so weak that people aren't willing to touch it, or so unusable that nobody can figure it out.

… We've got to work over the next year or more to develop hidden services to the point where their positive impact is felt by the average netizen, whether they're publishing a personal blog for their friends, using a novel communications protocol more secure than email, or reading a news article based on information that a journalist received through an anonymous submission system. Otherwise, they'll remain a target for every kind of speculation, and every misunderstanding about them will lead people to conclude the worst about privacy online.

In the age of WikiLeaks and the NSA, computer privacy services like Tor are at the forefront of of the conversation. But the research, says Greenberg, could shift the tenor of that conversation:

Law enforcement officials and politicians including New York Senator Chuck Schumer have railed against the use of Tor to enable online drug sales on a mass scale, with little mention of child abuse. Owen’s study is a reminder that criminal content is hiding in the shadows of the Internet that make drug sales look harmless by comparison—and whose consumers may be more active than anyone imagined.

People Will Give Away Their Personal Information for an Actual Cookie

Smithsonian Magazine

People seem to have a fickle relationship with privacy and the security of personal information. We balk at Google knowing our searches or at companies buying and selling our email addresses. We flock to social networks that promise us that our data is our own. And yet, given the chance, some people will willfully trade important personal details for a cookie.

No, really, people literally gave up crucial personal information for cookies—partial social security numbers, photos, mothers' maiden names, fingerprints, photos, phone numbers, driver's license numbers... for cookies.

These bits of information are way more important than email addresses and search histories: they are the missing pieces needed to socially engineer your way into someone else's life. And the trade—“the keys to my identify for a cookie, please”—was conducted in the shadow of a legal notice saying the person behind the ploy, Risa Puno, had the “right to display the information and share it with others,” says Lois Beckett for ProPublica. And here's Slate:

A cookie frosted with the Instagram logo was so popular that Puno required “buyers” to hand over the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, their driver’s license data, and their fingerprints, all of which was totally fine, because who needs a protected legal identity when you have a cookie with an Instagram logo.

“It is crazy what people were willing to give me,” Puno told Beckett. Puno, an artist, managed to collect some measure of sensitive information for 380 people at an arts festival in Brooklyn.

The artistic experiment is confirmation of the idea that people really just have no sense of what information and privacy is worth other than, variably, a whole lot or, apparently, a cookie.

The United States Is Declared an Enemy of the Internet by Reporters Without Borders

Smithsonian Magazine

Americans have a love affair with the internet. Over 70 percent of households have internet access, and more than half of Americans use the internet every day. An average American spends about sixty hours a month online and visits about 2,600 websites. But, as much as the American people love the internet, the American government might not.

Each year, Reporters Without Borders puts out a list of countries where the internet isn’t as open and free as they’d like it to be. This year, the group has officially included America on its list of “Enemies of the Internet.”

The list usually includes countries you might expect: Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea. But in 2014 it also includes two countries that pride themselves on freedom of expression: Britain and the United States. Pointing to the recent leaks by Edward Snowden, which implicated both the NSA and the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Reporters Without Borders argues that the two countries have a schizophrenic attitude towards online freedoms.

The group writes:

The NSA and GCHQ have spied on the communications of millions of citizens including many journalists. They have knowingly introduced security flaws into devices and software used to transmit requests on the Internet. And they have hacked into the very heart of the Internet using programmes such as the NSA’s Quantam Insert and GCHQ’s Tempora. The Internet was a collective resource that the NSA and GCHQ turned into a weapon in the service of special interests, in the process flouting freedom of information, freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

As part of its report, RWB has created a map of places where reporters have been surveilled, censored and imprisoned based on internet spying. The groups also has a set of recommendations for internet-surveilling countries, which include respecting privacy, creating United Nations working groups on digital privacy and creating laws that guarantee digital freedoms.

The chances of the United States getting off the enemies list soon, however, seem pretty slim. As long as the NSA is out and about, spying on our clicks, the United States will remain an enemy of the internet. 

Traditional Hausa urban compounds, Katsina, Nigeria, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

"The Hausa, with their use of reinforced mud construction, have developed a sophisticated, almost modular, architectural technology (Moughtin). The house consists of rooms within or surrounding a courtyard or forming two or more courtyards. The complex is demarcated by a wall giving privacy and security to the family. The compound so formed contains the main social and economic unit, the simple or extended family. The form of the Hausa house has also been adapted to suit the privacy requirements of Islam. It is surrounded by a 3-4 m mud wall entered through one gateway. The central part of the facade is generally a well-balanced composition of the entrance, the windows, pilasters and a frieze with phallic elements. A monumental facade indicates the status and position of the man as the head of the extended family and manager of a trade network that could extend to all Northern africa." [Oliver P., 1998: Vernacular Architecture of the World. The Savanna Grasslands. Cambridge University Press]. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Traditional Hausa urban compounds, Katsina, Nigeria, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

"The Hausa, with their use of reinforced mud construction, have developed a sophisticated, almost modular, architectural technology (Moughtin). The house consists of rooms within or surrounding a courtyard or forming two or more courtyards. The complex is demarcated by a wall giving privacy and security to the family. The compound so formed contains the main social and economic unit, the simple or extended family. The form of the Hausa house has also been adapted to suit the privacy requirements of Islam. It is surrounded by a 3-4 m mud wall entered through one gateway. The central part of the facade is generally a well-balanced composition of the entrance, the windows, pilasters and a frieze with phallic elements. A monumental facade indicates the status and position of the man as the head of the extended family and manager of a trade network that could extend to all Northern africa." [Oliver P., 1998: Vernacular Architecture of the World. The Savanna Grasslands. Cambridge University Press]. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Aerial view of traditional Hausa compounds, Zaria, Nigeria, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

"The Hausa, with their use of reinforced mud construction, have developed a sophisticated, almost modular, architectural technology (Moughtin). The house consists of rooms within or surrounding a courtyard or forming two or more courtyards. The complex is demarcated by a wall giving privacy and security to the family. The compound so formed contains the main social and economic unit, the simple or extended family. The form of the Hausa house has also been adapted to suit the privacy requirements of Islam. It is surrounded by a 3-4 m mud wall entered through one gateway." [Oliver P., 1998: Vernacular Architecture of the World. The Savanna Grasslands. Cambridge University Press]. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Traditional Hausa urban compounds, Katsina, Nigeria, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

"The Hausa, with their use of reinforced mud construction, have developed a sophisticated, almost modular, architectural technology (Moughtin). The house consists of rooms within or surrounding a courtyard or forming two or more courtyards. The complex is demarcated by a wall giving privacy and security to the family. The compound so formed contains the main social and economic unit, the simple or extended family. The form of the Hausa house has also been adapted to suit the privacy requirements of Islam. It is surrounded by a 3-4 m mud wall entered through one gateway. The central part of the facade is generally a well-balanced composition of the entrance, the windows, pilasters and a frieze with phallic elements. A monumental facade indicates the status and position of the man as the head of the extended family and manager of a trade network that could extend to all Northern africa." [Oliver P., 1998: Vernacular Architecture of the World. The Savanna Grasslands. Cambridge University Press]. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Traditional Hausa urban compounds, Katsina, Nigeria, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

"The Hausa, with their use of reinforced mud construction, have developed a sophisticated, almost modular, architectural technology (Moughtin). The house consists of rooms within or surrounding a courtyard or forming two or more courtyards. The complex is demarcated by a wall giving privacy and security to the family. The compound so formed contains the main social and economic unit, the simple or extended family. The form of the Hausa house has also been adapted to suit the privacy requirements of Islam. It is surrounded by a 3-4 m mud wall entered through one gateway. The central part of the facade is generally a well-balanced composition of the entrance, the windows, pilasters and a frieze with phallic elements. A monumental facade indicates the status and position of the man as the head of the extended family and manager of a trade network that could extend to all Northern africa." [Oliver P., 1998: Vernacular Architecture of the World. The Savanna Grasslands. Cambridge University Press]. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Traditional Hausa urban compounds, Katsina, Nigeria, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

"The Hausa, with their use of reinforced mud construction, have developed a sophisticated, almost modular, architectural technology (Moughtin). The house consists of rooms within or surrounding a courtyard or forming two or more courtyards. The complex is demarcated by a wall giving privacy and security to the family. The compound so formed contains the main social and economic unit, the simple or extended family. The form of the Hausa house has also been adapted to suit the privacy requirements of Islam. It is surrounded by a 3-4 m mud wall entered through one gateway. The central part of the facade is generally a well-balanced composition of the entrance, the windows, pilasters and a frieze with phallic elements. A monumental facade indicates the status and position of the man as the head of the extended family and manager of a trade network that could extend to all Northern africa." [Oliver P., 1998: Vernacular Architecture of the World. The Savanna Grasslands. Cambridge University Press]. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family "Go Waggaloo" Ad

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
To purchase the album: http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=3238 On October 27, Smithsonian Folkways will release Go Waggaloo, a 13-track disc of children's music from Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family featuring her husband Johnny Irion, their two daughters, and a host of other family and friends including her father Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Pete's grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger. Guthrie presents thoughtful yet playful recordings of traditional songs and new compositions, including three songs featuring lyrics by her grandfather Woody Guthrie from the Smithsonian Folkways archives never before put to music and eight songs written by Sarah Lee and family. This is Sarah Lee Guthrie's first children's recording and her first recording for Smithsonian Folkways, home of 42 albums featuring Woody Guthrie and more than 200 children's recordings by Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Lead Belly and many others. http://www.folkways.si.edu/about_us/news_press.aspx#08.21.09_sarah_lee_guthrie http://www.facebook.com/smithsonianfolkwaysrecordings The content and comments posted here are subject to the Smithsonian Institution copyright and privacy policy (/www.si.edu/copyright/). Smithsonian reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove any content at any time. The content and comments posted here are subject to the Smithsonian Institution copyright and privacy policy (/www.si.edu/copyright/). Smithsonian reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove any content at any time.
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