Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Intel Corporation, a corporation, FTC Docket No. 9341
I am surprised to learn that Intel Corporation intends to acquire McAfee, Inc., particularly while this action has yet to be finalized. If the respondent intends to use this acquisition to improve the security of its semiconductor products, it is laudable, but additional oversight is warranted if it seeks to profit in a market for security software due to defects and "oversights" in its own products, which have maintained ubiquity due in part to its anti-competitive actions. By way of example, the respondent was able to delay implementing a well-understood security mechanism because it knew it could maintain its position in the market independent of the merits of its product. [This feature is referred to as the 'XD bit' in respondent's parlance, and is a method to prevent the execution of software code stored at vulnerable locations in a computer's memory.] Accordingly, permitting this conflict of interest to exist is equivalent to permitting banks' unnerving practice of marketing 'Identity Theft Protection' as insurance against vulnerabilities in their electronic payment systems which remain due to their failure to implement well-understood security practices. I hope that this Commission has an interest in investigating both of these behaviors, unless protection of inferior products so that we may charge to correct them has become 'the American way.' ... While I am writing, "Gray"'s comment, 00005, points out an even more dramatic loophole if the language refers to "'computer' makers," since the modern definition of a 'computer' may be colloquially limited compared to the range of markets injured by the respondent's actions. In particular, this language is ambiguous concerning "embedded systems," "smartphones," "mobile devices," "tablets," and "e-books," which utilize identical components but may not all be 'computers' in the eyes of a layperson. The authors of the Agreement would do well to avoid ambiguity and use more general language concerning any 'customers' or 'purchasers' of the respondent's semiconductor products, to the extent that those products implement the operations associated with 'computing' in the mathematical sense.