IBM to disable serial number in PIII

In response to privacy concerns over a processor serial number that is burned into Pentium III chips, IBM said it will disable the ID feature in the Pentium III computers it sells.

IBM will disable the feature at the BIOS (basic input/output system) level so that "if a consumer wants to enable the feature, they will have to do it themselves, using a BIOS set-up option," Christopher Caine, vice president for governmental affairs at IBM, wrote in a letter sent to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) in the US.

The BIOS is the program that runs when a system is first booted up.

"Although there are constructive ways to use the processor ID feature to validate user identification, there are also legitimate privacy concerns raised by the potential misuse of this feature," wrote Caine, who said he was responding to an inquiry from the CDT about IBM's plans with regard to the processor serial number.

"We believe that the use of such identifying technology should be balanced by giving the consumer the ability to decide whether or not to activate it," Caine added.

In response, Intel spokesman Tom Waldrop said it is up to PC makers to decide whether they want to put the BIOS switch on or off. "If the goal is to have an end user be able to use the number when they want to the most easily then you could make a case that leaving the switch on in BIOS would achieve that," he said.

Intel has been in the hot seat since last month over its plans to put a serial number on all Pentium III processors, which will be available in systems this weekend. The move prompted privacy rights groups to call for a boycott of systems using the chip and the issue resurfaced this week when the hardware editor at German magazine Computer Technology said he found a way someone could turn on the ID feature even if the user has turned it off.

Intel initially touted the serial number as a way to improve security for e-commerce transactions by enabling identification. But critics have complained that the serial number will allow third parties to track the user's every move.

To mollify the critics, Intel said it would make available a software utility program that would allow users to switch the serial number function off, while requiring a hard reboot to turn it back on again. The company said yesterday there is a second option. Computer makers can put switches in the BIOS that can be used to turn the serial number function on or off.

Not all of the PC makers offering Pentium III systems have agreed to include the BIOS switch, Intel said yesterday. Intel is encouraging PC makers who do include the switch to set it to the "on" position so users will be able to take advantage of the ID feature without having to set up the option in their BIOS, an Intel executive said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Elinor Mills

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?