Advisory group asks EU to consider Pentium III ban

An advisory group to the European Parliament is asking the government body to consider banning Intel's Pentium III chip in Europe for privacy reasons.

In a report on electronic surveillance techniques presented this week to the European Parliament, the Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA), asked that parliamentary committee members consider legal measures that would "prevent these chips from being installed in the computers of European citizens."

Such measures would be taken only after a group of technical experts first assesses the security risks to consumers connected to the product, STOA said in its report, posted on the Internet. The report is entitled "Encryption and Cryptosystems in Electronic Surveillance: A Survey of the Technology Assessment Issues."

The STOA report also calls on US government agencies, including the National Security Association and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to "provide information on their role in the creation of the PSN (personal serial number) created by Intel." The recommendation on the Intel chip is one of a series of recommendations that STOA makes on how to improve security for European citizens.

Intel's new Pentium III chip first drew attention from privacy advocates earlier this year when it was discovered that it contains a unique PSN that could allow outside parties to track a user without the user's knowledge.

The serial number in Intel's Pentium III chip was initially touted by Intel as a way to make e-commerce easier. When groups protested the PSN, however, Intel said it would make software available that lets users switch off the serial number function. However, experts doubted whether this could be accomplished.

STOA is an organisation devoted to advising the European Union on topics related to electronic surveillance. Earlier this year, STOA submitted an exhaustive report on the methods used by intelligence organisations to ferret out information, including unauthorised interception of commercial satellites, long-distance communications from space, undersea cables using submarines, and data transmissions over the Internet.

STOA and other privacy groups believe that governments in Europe are seeking to extend the surveillance methods they use for phone calls to data transmissions over the Internet. More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups set up a Web site to monitor what they believe are global efforts to spy on citizens. Such groups have asked the US Congress and other governments to investigate such efforts.

A copy of the report, written by STOA committee member Franck Leprevost, is available on the Web at: http://cryptome.org/stoa-r3-5.htm

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