Conjuring up shades of George Orwell's "1984", a group of privacy advocates is taking on shareholders of Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., because of the controversial ID feature in its Pentium III chip.
The group -- comprising the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Washington; Junkbusters Corp., Greenbrook, N.J.; and Privacy International, London -- has called on investment fund managers to divest their holdings in Intel, claiming the processor serial number ID feature in the new chip is an invasion of privacy and could be used against anyone using it.
"The social bottom line takes notice of Intel's Orwellian vision of the future, where people's movements on the Internet are constantly tracked," said Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters.
The group sent an open letter to six mutual funds using social responsible criteria -- the Dreyfus Third Century Fund, the Parnassus Fund, the Domini Social Equity Fund, the Calvert Social Equity Fund, the Citizens Emerging Growth Fund and Smith Barney Concert Social Awareness Fund -- asking them to divest Intel holdings. They also recommend adding Intel to screening lists identifying companies that should be excluded from investment based on social criteria, specifically for showing a disregard for human rights; and support programs of shareholder activism to have the ID feature removed from the chips.
"Responsible investment firms need to consider the social impact of information technology that threatens the privacy of American citizens," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.