Groups call for Intel boycott

Advocacy groups says users should not buy Intel products until chip ID technology is turned off.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor

Privacy groups are scheduled to announce a boycott Monday of products made by Intel Corp. following news the company plans registration technology in future Pentiums that could identify consumers on the Internet. The boycott was called by the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre, a consumer advocacy group, and Junkbusters Inc., of Green Brook, N.J., a high-tech lobbying group. Intel did not immediately respond today.

Intel announced last week that it would put several security features in future processors, starting with the Pentium III later this quarter. One plan is to put processor-specific IDs on each chip that can be accessed by software and transmitted over the Internet.

The ID will be a 64-bit number created by fusing wires on the chip together during its manufacturing. Along with the current 32-bit CPU ID -- a number that groups CPUs depending on when and where they were manufactured -- the ID will create a 96-bit unique serial number accessible by software. The processor ID can be hidden from Net access by turning off a software switch. Each machine will default to having the ID on, but a Windows control panel will allow users to turn it off.

Companies could require remote users to use the technology, while banks may offer more features to its customers that have processor IDs turned on. The ID could also help enable the ultimate in software copy protection, tying applications to a specific machine. But groups including the American Civil Liberties Union raised red flags over the technology, saying it could be used to track consumers over the Internet. Intel has said it has no plans to match the processor IDs with names in a database.

Boycott organisers will introduce a parody of Intel's famous "Intel Inside" advertising campaign, but this one called, "Big Brother Inside."

NOTE: Intel UK confirmed this afternoon that it is "in discussion" with privacy groups. The spokesperson said that "privacy is being safeguarded" but asked if a solution was in sight she added: "this is a very complex issue. I think it will take some time."

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