Is Clear worth anything at all?

Glaskowsky updates his previous post about the Clear Registered Traveler program with some information even Clear doesn't seem to have-- the TSA is no longer running background checks on Clear's applicants.

I received an interesting phone call this afternoon. It was from Ellen Howe of the Transportation Security Administration, regarding my blog post on Monday titled " Is Clear a present danger for football fans? "

Howe wanted to correct an error I made. It seems that TSA is no longer running background checks on applicants for the Clear Registered Traveler program managed by Verified Identity Pass, Inc. (VIP).

I made that mistake based on statements on the Clear website and in local news coverage of the new Clear lanes at San Francisco 49ers games.

Clear card
The Clear card Verified Identity Pass

Howe said that as for the other issues I raised in my original post, I was "on track with what (I) said," so that was good to hear.

Clear's site still carries many press releases describing the background-check step in its application process, and I can't find any mention there of the termination of this process, which Howe says took effect at the end of July. I found the official notice of the change in the Federal Register for July 30.

Clear's "About" page still says "Clear members are pre-screened," but that's no longer true in any meaningful way.

The only thing Clear does now is checking each applicant's government-issued IDs before generating the Clear card from the applicant's biometric data. Clear knows you're you-- but no longer knows if you're any more trustworthy than anyone else.

Why does VIP allow this misunderstanding to persist? Well, it certainly makes the company and its services look more valuable. That statement about pre-screening also appears in the August 20 press release from Clear announcing that it has received $44.4 million in additional venture funding. I hope the investors learned the truth before transferring their funds.

This change only reinforces my previous conclusions. There is now no reason for security personnel-- at an airport, a sporting event, or anywhere else-- to give any special treatment to Clear members. (That said, I wouldn't criticize anyone for taking advantage of this special treatment. I've often thought about getting a Clear card myself, though I never have.)

So as of now, the Clear service is nothing more than a way to skip to the front of security lines in return for paying a $128 annual fee. That doesn't seem right to me unless the money serves to improve the screening process, but I haven't seen any evidence that this is happening.

About the author

    Peter N. Glaskowsky is a computer architect in Silicon Valley and a technology analyst for the Envisioneering Group. He has designed chip- and board-level products in the defense and computer industries, managed design teams, and served as editor in chief of the industry newsletter "Microprocessor Report." He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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