The Clinton Administration appears to be backing down on requiring computer hardware and software makers to use the Clipper Chip, a new technology to lock out all electronic eavesdroppers but give government a "back door" to listen in. Instead, Vice President Al Gore indicated in a letter this week that he will now seek alternative security schemes that make the computer industry less nervous. Software producers, for example, claim requiring the chip on U.S. exports could scare off foreign buyers, at a cost of more than $6 billion a year in lost revenues. But Net users, most of whom don't like the Big Brother technology, won't be so happy with the Veep's apparent retreat, says TIME science writer Philip Elmer-DeWitt: "Gore has deftly split the issue. He's willing to consider another method of encryption -- as long as you give him a 'back door.' "