Something isn't CLEAR about airport line-jumping program


A new program has appeared at San Jose Airport, and a few other airports like Orlando. It's called "Clear" and is largely the product of the private company Clear at But something smells very wrong.

To get the Clear card, you hand over $99/year. The private company keeps 90% and the TSA gets the small remainder. You then have to provide a fingerprint, an iris scan and your SSN, among other things.

What do you get for this? You get to go to the front of the security line, past all the hoi polloi. But that's it. Once at the front of the line, you still go through the security scan the same as anybody else. Which is, actually, the right thing to do since "trusted traveller" programs which actually let you bypass the security procedure are in fact bad for security compared to random screening.

But what doesn't make sense is -- why all the background checks and biometrics just to go to the head of the line? Why wouldn't an ordinary photo ID card work? It doesn't matter who you are. You could be Usama bin Ladin because all you did was not wait in line.

So what gives? Is this just an end run to get people more used to handing over fingerprints and other information as a natural consequence of flying? Is it a plan to change the program to one that lets the "clear" people actually avoid being x-rayed. As it stands, it certainly makes no sense.

Note that it's not paying to get to the front of the line that makes no sense, though it's debatable why the government should be selling such privileges. It's the pointless security check and privacy invasion. For some time United Airlines at their terminal in SFO has had a shorter security line for their frequent flyers. But it doesn't require any special check on who you are. If you have status or a 1st class ticket, you're in the short line.


It is obviously a program to create a database of peoples' biometrics and background check info--funded by the people themselves!

I was reading Clear's privacy policy and while they are fairly straightforward about what information (e.g. biometrics) they keep and how they keep it segregated, the one thing that stopped me was they they send my biometrics to the TSA and I don't know what the TSA does with it. For someone who has read Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur" and Naomi Wolf's "The End of America", this gives me pause.

In general, I think Brad's point is quite valid. While I would like to see a better system instituted at our airports, I can no longer trust my government to protect the rights and, importantly, the privacy of its citizens. I could give my information to Clear now based on their current policy but without a clearly stated national law on such personal information, it's hard to say what will happen in the future with the information collected. Getting to the front of the line just isn't worth the risk.

I'm gong to pass on Clear for now.

Just another case where money gets you special privileges

My friend bought into this and used it for a year. While she didn't say how well it worked she did say that she had bought in on a multi-year plan to save money over the single year subscriptions. Over the last couple of weeks the Clear plan was discontinued without warning to it's participants.

Now my friend is out over $500 and Clear says there will be no refunds due to their financial condition. Yet they have not filed for bankruptcy. This is fraud, pure and simple, and the officers of this company have to go to jail. In addition TSA and Lockheed Martin should be included in any legal action/lawsuit as they were complicit with Clear's clearly fraudulent activity.

Given all that, God help those who gave them information. Once they need some more cash that information will go to the highest bidder!

There is always a big risk buying multi-year memberships in advance to brand new companies. I remember back in Ontario, they passed a law forbidding the sale of lifetime memberships to things like gyms, because the average gym seemed to live only 2 or 3 years.

Every so often you luck out. In 1977, Burning Man was low on cash and sold lifetime tickets for $500 to people who were leaving the event. Those smart enough to buy them did very well, since it's now typically $250 per ticket. But this is a rare case. People buying those memberships knew the org was in dire straits.

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