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Intel addresses LaGrande privacy concerns

Intel is taking steps to ensure that its design for LaGrande, the next generation of computer security components, will be accepted by the industry.

Speaking at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, Intel executives said LaGrande will be aimed at business users rather than consumers. They added that they would make it easier for users to opt out of LaGrande, saying Intel no longer plans to include the LaGrande technology in all of its microprocessors.

Intel has also released a draft of a policy white paper designed to address privacy concerns relating to the LaGrande design. LaGrande specifies a number of security features for the processors, chipset, storage, input devices and graphics components that will be created by Intel and partner companies to improve the security of Intel-based systems.

The chip maker hopes that LaGrande will avoid the kinds of privacy concerns that plagued the company when it added serial numbers to its Pentium III processors in 1999. Intel eventually scrapped the serial number plan, but not before the company had been widely criticised by privacy advocates.

"In our naivety as technologists, we blundered into this policy area and were pretty soundly criticised for it," said Mike Ferron-Jones, manager of advanced technology marketing in Intel's desktop platforms group.

 "We have learned a lot from that experience and, as a result, we are being tremendously proactive... in developing policies around the LaGrande technology deployment."

Intel has no plans to include LaGrande in its Itanium 2 line of 64-bit processors. When LaGrande-enabled systems begin to ship, the security technology will be available for the 32-bit desktop and mobile systems.

Intel has also decided not to create "back door" mechanisms that would give law enforcement agencies ways to access encrypted data on LaGrande systems, according to David Grawrock, a security architect with Intel.

The company had discussed the matter with law enforcement, he said, but ultimately decided not to go that route.

"I'm impressed by how sensitive they are to the privacy issues," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with consulting company Insight 64. "It's all part of their plan to be up front, so people can't accuse them of trying to sneak something in."

LaGrande systems are expected to begin shipping within two to three years.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service


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