Intel has agreed that the new security features planned for the Pentium III chip will be switched off by default, to avoid invading users' privacy.
The chip giant's scheme to burn serial numbers into the chips (see PC Week, 26 January) came under fire from civil liberties groups, who disliked the fact that Internet sites could retain the ID numbers identifying the chips. This week an Arizona State legislator will propose a bill banning the sale of Pentium III chips within the state.
While maintaining that critics had entirely missed the point, Intel issued a public statement last week that "off" would be the default setting for the serial number.
Electronic commerce sites are unlikely to insist on users having the technology in the short term in case they isolate customers who do not have the latest chips.
Intel expects the electronic ID system to become widely accepted by Ecommerce sites as a way of cross-referencing the validity of a credit card number.
By early next year, all new Intel processors will have this function, including Celeron, mobile Pentium and Celeron and Pentium III Xeon.
Ecommerce vendors told PC Week that, while they are prepared to evaluate any potential enhancements to security, they would not implement anything that might reduce the numbers of people who could buy from their sites.
As the serial number will only be included in the newest processors, immediate adoption of the system would isolate anyone who did not upgrade their computer to a new processor.
"We are not planning anything for the present. We would not want to adopt any technology that would isolate any of the market. We go for the lowest common denominator," said Barry Collins, Internet business manager at Dell.
National Semiconductor subsidiary Cyrix has also committed to issuing chips with an electronic ID numbers. AMD is believed to be considering a similar move.
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