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February 28, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

Intel Corp is facing another complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, this time from the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Privacy Rights Clearing House, over the Pentium III’s processor serial number feature. Filed on Friday, the complaint asks for the immediate halting of Pentium III shipments, and alleges that Intel is engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices. It also asks the FTC to stop computer makers from shipping machines based on the chip unless the technology has been disabled through the use of a secure method. Very much aware of the storm of criticism surrounding the PSN feature, Intel has been advising OEMs to ship the products with the feature set in default off position, and has written a software utility so that consumers can check on the setting and switch the feature on or off. Critics say it’s too easy to circumvent that software, and that the feature could be turned back on without the consumer’s knowledge. IBM Corp has already indicated it intends to disable the feature at the BIOS level. The privacy groups say that Intel was being deceptive in introducing PSN as a security feature without mentioning privacy issues. PSN provides a means for web site providers to identify visitors to their sites, and Intel says it is intended to help stop fraud in e-commerce transactions. Privacy advocates claim companies could use PSN to track the movement of consumers across the web. The FTC indicated that it would seriously consider the complaint.

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