Consumer Groups Demand FTC Halt Distribution of Pentium Chip

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The Center for Democracy and Technology, Washington, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, San Diego, and Consumer Action, San Francisco, filed an official request with the Federal Trade Commission on Friday asking the government to "investigate and halt the distribution of the Intel Pentium III Processor as a violation of individual privacy and, therefore, an unfair and deceptive trade practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act."

The complaint alleges that the Intel Corp., Santa Clara, CA will undermine consumer's privacy by releasing its new Pentium III chip with an identifying serial number that can be used to track computers -- and computer users -- across the Internet.

"At its core, the Pentium III PSN establishes a system that supports the wide spread tracking and monitoring of individuals' online behavior. It stands to undermine consumers' efforts to control the use of their information. Our experience warns that without real consumer control and policies limiting their use, unique identifiers threaten privacy," said Jerry Berman, executive director at the center for democracy and


"Intel is attempting to throw a blanket over the serious privacy issues in this chip. Yes, consumers need security, but the price shouldn't be their privacy," said Ken McEldowney, executive director of consumer action.

"The Intel Pentium III with a PSN brings us dangerously close to an environment of ubiquitous monitoring. This proposal must be prohibited from going forward," said Beth Givens, director of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

"We are worried that consumers will be required to disclose this new identifier as a price of gaining entry to Web sites -- fundamentally eliminating the anonymity the Internet currently affords individuals. As designed, the PSN has the potential to become the de facto online identification system," said Deirdre Mulligan, Staff Counsel at CDT.

The Complaint argues that the FTC enjoin Intel from shipping Pentium III Processors with a unique PSN immediately followed by an official investigation into the privacy issues posed by such devices.

See Related Article: "Computer Makers Ship Computers With Pentium ID Switched Off"

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