OneZero has a terrifying fluff piece on Clear, the identity verification company that gives members quick access to airports and sports stadiums at the expense of their personal and biometric data:
But more than 3,500 documents and emails obtained by OneZero through public records requests shed light on how the company used the pandemic to pivot and help expand its business model beyond getting fliers to the front of the line. Clear’s vision for its fingerprint, iris-scanning, and facial recognition business goes beyond kiosks in airports or sports areas — it wants to be a holistic identity verification platform, covering more intimate moments in our everyday lives. The company has already amassed troves of personal data on its customers, especially for Clear customers who use the service to buy concessions and enter sports stadiums. The company has even explored sharing that data with partners for marketing purposes. In return for cutting to the front of the line unimpeded, customers handing over vast swaths of biometric and travel data.
At its core, Clear monetizes trust. When the company verifies a person’s identity, whether that be to enter an airport, a stadium, or buy a beer at a concession stand, Clear is affirming that they are who they say they are. Right now, this verification process means priority access to an airport or stadium security line as a trusted Clear member. But in the future, documents and slideshows reviewed by OneZero suggest Clear plans to be the company that verifies your identity every time you would have swiped a credit card, shown your ID at a door, or handed over a health insurance card.
So Clear wants to know every time I visit a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, and get on a plane, and they want to sell my comings-and-goings to other shady companies?
Clear members already pay $179 a year and all Clear has to do is match their fingerprint with a credit card — something my iPhone already does, and I don’t pay $179 a year for the privilege. And my iPhone isn’t selling my personal data to some shady marketing company with weak security that leaks it all over the dark web. So wait, why are people paying $179 for this bullshit again?
Also, as OneZero points out, Clear has no competition in this identity verification game. The TSA only has a contract with Clear.
According to documents reviewed by OneZero, the company has previously considered monetizing this customer data that it obtained from its free and paid users. In a 2015 presentation to LAX, Clear showed off all the data that it collected on customers who enter stadiums, with the title “Identity Dashboard — Valuable Marketing Data.” That data includes favorite foods and beverages at sports stadiums, when they arrive at games, what kind of credit card they have, whom they attend games with, and how often they fly first class.
“Valuable Marketing Data” like “favorite foods” and the times people “arrive at games,” and coming soon, members’ “mental illnesses,” “ailments,” and “valuable lists of medication members are currently taking”. Thanks, but I’ll spend an extra ten minutes in line watching Quibi. (Too soon?)
Clear is also launching Health Pass, which is being used to track COVID symptoms and test results in employees, and can even connect to and report test results directly from labs to the employer. According to OneZero, employees at the Seattle Mariners’ stadium must signup (by submitting their personal and biometric data to Clear) and answer health questions each day, then show the results to security to be allowed to enter the stadium to work. This sounds like a horrible, big brother future where your privacy and biometric data is treated like a commodity by whatever fly-by-night app wants it. Like with 9/11, Clear is using fear, uncertainty, and doubt to turn a profit and weaken American’s expectations of how companies can use their personal data. If Congress wants to fight a monopoly, Clear is the one to go after — and now, before it’s too late.