Privacy groups which have been urging PC OEMs to boycott the upcoming Pentium III chip because of its new security feature, have now decided to extend their reach, and are calling to consumers to boycott any PC manufacturer who ships a Pentium III system with the Processor Serial Number included.
Furthermore, the privacy concerns have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to recall the Pentium III, according to published reports.
The Electronic Privacy Industry Council (EPIC) in Washington and other privacy groups are concerned about the unique ID number that will be designed into the forthcoming Pentium III chip. Intel's decision to turn the feature off via a Windows utility did not satisfy EPIC executives, who reported that they still felt that Intel's actions did not protect consumer privacy.
The New York Times reported that the FTC had been asked to issue a recall of Intel's chips, but representatives of both the FTC and EPIC were unavailable to comment. On EPIC's web site, the organization said that the Pentium III boycott was still in effect, and had been expanded to include PC OEMs that will ship the chip as well.
The news caught several PC OEMs by surprise, and company representatives said that they were unaware of the expanded boycott. Executives at Packard-Bell NEC Inc. declined comment, and representatives at Gateway Inc. and IBM were unavailable for comment.
Compaq Computer Corp., which released a statement on January 11 pledging broad support for the Pentium III, said the company's legal and government affairs teams were both investigating the matter. While the company currently has no definitive position on the matter, a spokesman said "the interest in Pentium III has certainly changed since the (Jan. 11) announcement."
At Dell Computer, Round Rock, Tex., a spokesman for the company said it will ship its Pentium III-enabled systems as planned. However, Dell plans to modify the BIOS software in its computers to turn off the ID feature, even before Intel has a chance to ship out the Windows utility to allow users to turn the feature off. Likewise, Dell will turn the ID feature on for major corporate accounts who require the additional security. "We've followed this down," a representative said. "It certainly does appear to have taken on a life of its own, but we want to be responsive to the customer base."