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Tech Industry

Movement to halt Pentium III grows

Consumer organizations are lining up to stop shipments of Intel's Pentium III over the chip's controversial serial numbers.

    Consumer and privacy organizations are lining up to stop shipments of Intel's Pentium III processor until additional controls are in place to address the chip's controversial serial number feature.

    Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, Privacy Times, and the Center for Media Education signed a letter supporting the Center for Democracy and Technology in a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission. They are asking the government to stop shipments of Intel's Pentium III processor, which contains serial numbers ostensibly designed to aid in secure e-commerce transactions and help track computers in large corporations.

    Privacy advocates have charged that the serial numbers can compromise security by making it easier to track Internet users based on the way they use the Web. In addition, these groups argue that security based on hardware identification is weak.

    "The complaint describes the substantial harm that the Pentium III serial number may cause, not only to individual consumers but to the Internet itself," the letter states. "It is vital to the growth of the Internet as a means of communication for people to be able to browse the Net with anonymity.

    "The countervailing argument that the [serial number] is needed for security purposes is not convincing," the letter adds.

    Intel began shipping Pentium III chips to PC makers last month, and systems offering the chip were available on February 28.