FTC meets with privacy group over PIII complaints

US Federal Trade Commission officials recently met with representatives from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and several other privacy groups concerning a complaint asking the FTC to halt distribution of Intel's Pentium III chip because of an identifying serial number on the chip.

US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) officials recently met with representatives from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and several other privacy groups concerning a complaint filed by the groups Feb. 26 against Intel , says Ari Schwartz, a policy analyst at the CDT.

The complaint asks the FTC to halt distribution of the Pentium III chip because an identifying serial number on the chip can be used to track computers.

In response to criticism from privacy groups, Intel previously said it would ship the process-based serial identification feature in the "off" mode. Despite that action, Schwartz says he is worried third-party software may be designed to enable the feature without a user's knowledge.

Intel has also met with the FTC and will probably meet with the agency again on the issue, says George Alfs, an Intel spokesman. He says the FTC hasn't started an investigation and called the discussions with the agency part of an "open dialogue."

Alfs says Intel believes the chip's identifying feature has value in the corporate environment for use in asset and information management.

An FTC spokeswoman cautioned against reading anything into the meetings. She said the complaint by the consumer groups is something the agency is "giving serious consideration to" but that no action has been taken.

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