Tech Industry

Critics may try to widen Intel boycott

Critics of Intel's new chip technology reportedly are trying to widen a boycott and enlist the government to take a stand against the Pentium III processor.

Critics of Intel's new chip technology are trying to widen a boycott and enlist the government to take a stand against the Pentium III processor which the critics say can trace where users have been on the Internet, according to a report.

With the official launch date for the Pentium III chip set for February 26, Junkbusters and Electronic Privacy Information Center, the organizers of the boycott, sent letters to several consumer and privacy groups, hoping they would lobby the Federal Trade Commission to get involved, the Associated Press reported.

Critics contend that Intel's new chip can transmit a unique serial number to Internet sites that request it for identification purposes. While Intel said the technology will help online merchants cut down fraud, privacy groups contend that it gives companies the ability to trace where a Net user has been on the Web.

Intel has invited reporters and analysts to talk about the technology at a preview conference in San Jose, California tomorrow.

Yesterday, the organizers of the boycott sent letters asking for support to the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Media Education, and other pertinent groups.

The letters appealed these groups to press the FTC to consider stopping Intel from distributing the Pentium III technology, the Associated Press reported.

Robert Pitofsky, the chairman of the FTC, earlier indicated that he thinks his agency cannot stop Intel from selling its new technology.

"As things stand, I don't think we have the authority to do that," Pitofsky told the Associated Press.

The FTC's role normally is to fight consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices.

The groups warned the FTC's Pitofsky in a separate letter that consumers would be wary of participating in the online commerce, fearing that their privacy may be compromised.

"[The Pentium III technology] will move reality much closer to these consumers' worst fears," the groups wrote to the FTC, the Associated Press reported.

Last month, after the boycott was first announced, Intel said it would include software that would allow users to turn off the Pentium III identification technology, and the chipmaker would encourage computer makers to ship their PCs with the technology off by default.

"We think we've given consumers enough choice--consumers choice and choice for the [computer makers]," said an Intel spokesman.

Intel said it expects to spend $300 million promoting the new processor. The company supplies about 85 percent of the world's computer chips, and had $26.2 billion in sales last year.