CLEARly a dumb idea

The United States' CLEAR registered traveler program is a good idea that has been so heavily diluted that it's completely useless. Don't bother signing up.

Clear Registered Traveler Program

I've been a member of the CLEAR program for almost a year now. CLEAR is a program for registered travelers that are "pre-screened for security and provided with a biometric card which allows them to pass through security faster, with more predictability and less hassle." Sounds good, right? Submit to a full cavity scan, a review of everything you've ever thought of doing in your life, and get through airport security faster? Sign me up!

Well, I did. I fly 125,000+ miles each year, and have done for nearly 10 years. Getting through an airport quickly is a big priority for me.

Today, however, was my first time actually using the program. That's because there are approximately two airports on the planet that participate in the program. (OK, I'm exaggerating - there are a whopping 11, but they're not airports most of us use on a regular basis.)

Even worse, the program seems to delay passage through security, rather than speeding it up. To use the CLEAR system, you have to go to a separate line, insert a card, have your fingerprint read, and...go through the same security process as everyone else. Shoes off. Laptop out. Liquids in the tray. Etc.

The only benefit seems to be that CLEAR lets you cut in line once you've had your fingerprint read, but this is a benefit that any frequent flier gets, anyway. I would have thought that giving so much personal information would show the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that while I may be a threat to my children's futures and proprietary software, I'm about as likely to blow up a plane as I am to fly it. (The latter would likely result in the former, but through no ill will on my part.)

What is the point of proving that you're not a security risk if all it means is that you get to jump the queue? Is there a serious security risk inherent in waiting in line?

CLEAR is a good idea, poorly executed. It's a waste of my $99/year, and a waste of yours. Don't bother signing up.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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