CLEAR is back – biometric security returns to Orlando and Denver

In June of last year, the US lost its first biometric airport security service.

CLEAR allowed passengers to register with their service, and a special smart card helped them speed up the whole agonizing process of getting to the gate.

Several months after it shut down, it became clear that things were not going to be gone for good. Investors picked up various portions of the service, and had hoped to relaunch it by Christmas 2009. Sadly, that deadline came and went without any announcement. But now it really is back.

The new CLEAR is launching at Orlando airport, and will be available at Denver International later this month. For $179 a year, passengers can present their CLEAR card, and proceed through the checkpoint after scanning their fingerprint or iris.

In the coming months, CLEAR will also introduce a family plan, allowing family members to be added to the $179 plan for an additional $50. During the introduction period, all members will receive a free month.

Previous members of CLEAR are not being forgotten – the new CLEAR will honor all memberships, and these cards will be reactivated once CLEAR arrives at their home airport or when the old card is used at a CLEAR checkpoint.

I’m happy to see CLEAR return, but unless they manage to spread to a lot of airports in 2011, it is going to be an uphill battle to get new customers signed up. Still, if you regularly pass through Orlando or Denver, the $179 investment shouldn’t be too hard to justify.

To learn more about the CLEAR, or to sign up for a membership, head on over to their new web site.

Registered Traveler Program returns – but only to Indianapolis airport

Starting today, passengers at Indianapolis airport can speed through the security checkpoint with a new Registered Traveler Program service from iQueue.

iQueue picks up where Clear left off when they went bankrupt, and is even offering previous Clear customers 6 months of free service when they enroll.

At the moment, iQueue is only available in Indianapolis, but they obviously have plans to expand the service to other airports.

My biggest concern with the return of these services is going to be fragmentation – The remnants of Clear were purchased last week, and the new owners plan to restart the service by fall 2010. The worst possible scenario will be having two or three different providers at different airports – requiring a separate membership for each one.

Membership in iQueue costs $149 for a year – and enrollment can be done on their site.

Clear speedy airport security lanes making a comeback?

Last year, Clear abruptly shut down – but after a bankruptcy hearing last month, a large portion of the business has been handed over to new owners. And these owners are very serious about getting the service back online as soon as they can.

With Clear, passengers paid a yearly subscription fee, and were able to jump to the front of the line at airport security checkpoints. The service was fairly successful, but obviously not enough of a success to stay commercially viable.

The new company, called AlClear, spent $6 million to acquire the remaining assets of the company that operated Clear. Sadly, those assets did not include the individual contracts with airport operators, which means the new venture may not arrive at your airport as soon as you’d hope.

Within the next couple of weeks, former subscribers will be contacted, offering them the chance to reactivate their subscriptions. If airport negotiations go as planned, AlClear may begin service this fall. The fee for AlClear will be $179 – plus an additional $50 to convert the individual plan into a family plan. Customers that do not wish to reactivate their old Clear account will have their personal information purged from the database.

Whether or not AlClear will be able to overcome the hurdles that put Clear out of business remains to be seen – the price was not the biggest issue Clear faced. Lack of availability around the nation and a security breach probably hurt them more than anything else. Personally, I wish AlClear lots of luck – I’m a huge fan of airport biometrics, and have been ever since I signed up for the Privium system at Amsterdam Airport back in 2002.

Clear speedy security lanes may be back by Christmas

We have been covering Verified Identity Pass and their Clear security service for some time now – first discussing how it helped passengers speed through the security checkpoint, then discussing their demise, and most recently, talking about how the service was treating the personal information of their customers.

Today, a team of investors have made the news with their attempts at reviving the service. The current plan is to have the service back in operation by the Holiday season, and part of the recovery includes offering former Clear subscribers the option to continue their membership with the “new and improved Clear”.

To me, the most interesting part of this, is whether or not a new Clear will require members to go through the sign up procedure again. As a reminder, this is what Clear said when they closed up shop:

“Personal information is safe – all airport kiosks have been wiped clean, and Lockheed Martin (the IT provider for Clear) has started wiping all the databases containing Clear customer data. No customer data will ever be sold, and once the cleaning process is done, there will be no traces of personal information left.”

The new investor had the following to say:

“If the former members choose not to sign up, their personal information will be destroyed.”

So, once again it has become obvious that the personal information of Clear members was not destroyed as promised, and assuming Clear goes to a new owner, their information will have been sold, breaking every promise Clear made.

Don’t get me wrong – I hope a new Clear does succeed, and I think it is very important that someone picks up the pieces of what is left of Clear, I’m just concerned how the personal information of subscribers is being dealt with, and who is actually in charge of all that information at the moment.

Thought you’d heard the last of Clear? Think again!

Clear, the bankrupt airport service that let travelers speed through the checkpoint, abruptly closed up shop last month.

The company had burned through all its cash, so within a matter of hours, the entire service was gone, and customers were left with a useless membership, to a bankrupt service.

Almost 260,000 people were also left without any way to get their money back, as Clear made it very clear (pardon the pun) that they wouldn’t be handing out any refunds.

Thousands of customers signed up and renewed each week, and even people that paid for the service the same day Clear shut down, were out of their money, and had to resort to credit card chargebacks.

Now, even though Clear is gone, they are working behind the scenes to make things worse. A court ordered the company to refrain from selling the customer information collected from the service.

It isn’t entirely clear why they wanted to sell the data, but it is very troubling that a company with very strict privacy rules would even consider violating their own membership agreement. Their database contains everything from names, birth dates, social security numbers, and numerous biometric entries.

Last month, Verified Identity Pass (the company that created Clear) issued the following statement:

“Personal information is safe – all airport kiosks have been wiped clean, and Lockheed Martin (the IT provider for Clear) has started wiping all the databases containing Clear customer data. No customer data will ever be sold, and once the cleaning process is done, there will be no traces of personal information left.”

Now that they are in court making a case for being allowed to sell personal data, obviously means they were lying when they wrote that statement.

Another development is even more troubling – I have been hearing from Clear members that they are receiving phone calls from Clear employees, asking whether they’d be interested in signing up for the service should it start up again.

It is obvious that something is going on behind the scenes – either a buyer was found for the entire service, or a new company is planning to start from scratch, picking up the pieces left behind. Whether they’ll be able to do this with the membership database maintained by Clear will be up to the courts.