CLEAR Leaves Passenger Details Visible At Airport Security For All To See
There have been calls to reign in CLEAR at airports after a handful of lapses where people went through security without having their identities checked over the past year.
TSA itself has had tens of thousands of discipline incidents over the years. By comparison they’re far worse and very few question the agency that still makes passengers take out liquids 17 years after a single U.K. plot when Britain itself is moving away from liquids checks (and some parts of the world never started them in the first place).
Yet what CLEAR actually provides to customers (as opposed to how they sell themselves to the government) isn’t greater security through biometrics, it’s an option to skip to the front of screening lines.
- Sometimes PreCheck lines are shorter and you should just go through PreCheck.
- But when those lines or long, or if you don’t have PreCheck, CLEAR is a real time-saver.
- It’s great to have as an option in the arsenal to speed up travel.
CLEAR may have greater employee accountability than TSA – they say they fired the people responsible for last year’s lapses and their managers – but you’re still handing over your biometrics to a company and trusting them to manage those well, just as you’re trusting the federal government when you join PreCheck or Global Entry.
So how well are they managing them? Dusty Moer points out that when you walk away from a CLEAR kiosk, your identifying information may be left up for all to see:
— Dusty Moer (@dmoer) September 10, 2023
That seems less than optimal! IDEMIA is likely to eat this up. That’s another private company that TSA contracts with to verify identities. The government contracts with a number of private providers, seeking to have them scoop up information on residents (that they likely couldn’t legally collect on their own without particularized suspicion) and then using that information. And governments and airlines partner in collecting data, allowing the airlines to do with that data as they please.
We’ve become complacent about our data, and our biometrics, trading access to it for discounts, for conveniences, or just to avoid confrontations over asking to opt out. And so there it sits, out in the open. The good news is that most of the time this is fine, because collecting information one person at a time is too costly to be valuable (malicious actors need a massive breach to be valuable) and because any one of us are too uninteresting to be paid much attention to.
And what are we even doing this for? There’s more life-years wasted waiting at security. In fact over 19,000 life years, equivalent to 242 full lives have been wasted taking off shoes and putting them back on for the TSA. Richard Reid may have won in the end.
We haven’t seen shoe bombings used against other targets in the U.S. that lack a shoe screening requirement. TSA accidentally filed a security assessment in court documents in 2013 revealing that “as of mid-2011, terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports.” And the TSA found in 2013 that “there have been no attempted domestic hijackings of any kind in the 12 years since 9/11.”