Stay Clear of Clear

by Sorell Slaymaker

Clear is the latest program to try and improve both airport security and help speed fliers through security check points.  It currently fails at both and is not worth the $179/year premium.  TSA Pre(check) is still the best way to go.

Clear’s security objective is to use your biometrics, finger prints and iris scan, to check your identity.  This makes sense, but the current execution has some major gaps including:

  1. Weak Identity Verification – Clear uses your driver’s license, social security number, and a couple of questions to associate your biometrics with an identity. Drivers licenses are not that hard to replicate (ask any teen) and the questions can be easily gleamed from social media.  As anyone who has had their identity stolen can attest, there are also databases of social security numbers that hackers have taken through the many security breaches.  Clear should utilize your passport and social media identity like LinkedIn or Facebook to further verify someone’s identity.  If someone does not have these, then add additional security questions that are not publicly available, which the credit card companies current use.
  2. Lack of Multi-factor Authentication – Clear requires you to use your two right finger prints to identify you when going through the security line. Multi-factor authentication is using something you know (password), something you have (passport) and something you are (finger print), that are all unique to a specific person.  Anyone who has watched any spy thriller movie knows that finger prints can be spoofed.  Multi-factor authentication is highly recommended and what our Department of Homeland Security uses for its employees to access secure areas.
  3. Klunky Kiosk for Enrollment – While the advertising makes enrollment sound easy, the Kiosk that you have to use at the airport is a disaster. It took multiple scans for the kiosk to read my fingerprints including having to put lotion on them.   The touch screen was not sensitive, so I had to touch the screen multiple times to walk through the menus and type in my information.  One of the security questions which asked me if; “I knew any of the people names on the screen”, which I did not, forced me to have to restart the enrollment process.  With the dedicated help of a Clear employee, it took us 20 minutes.
  4. Same security scan – Unlike TSA Pre, Clear has you go through the same security scanners as before, where you have to take off your shoes, belt, jacket, … So, while you get to bypass the long line where a human verifies your identity, you still have to wait in line and put your stuff through the scanners, which is the real bottle neck of the airport security process.   Clear is slower than the TSA Pre where you do not have to take out your laptop nor take off your shoes, thus the lines are faster.

So, you pay $179 with minimal benefit to you, the customer, nor our nation’s security.  I expect more from my country and those that are paid to make this world a safer, better place.  TSA Pre is still the way to go.  Thanks to TSA Pre’s recent policy to stop accepting frequent fliers such as Delta’s Platinum and Diamond members, I now have to re-enroll and pay the government some additional money.