T3. GET VALIDATED Clear authenticates a valid driver’s license, U.S. passport, perma- nent resident card, or U.S. military card.
THE MID;AUGUST SUN IS UNKIND AS
hundreds of baseball fans—fresh off the
equally oppressive Bronx subway platform—
stand in a line at Gate 6 outside Yankee
Stadium clenching bottled waters. While
they wait to empty their pockets, open their
purses, and walk through one of the magnetron scanners to see their home team take a
beating from the Tampa Bay Rays, a middle-aged man zips past the queue through a
separate lane and presses his fingers against
a screen at a kiosk with the word CLEAR
emblazoned on the sides in blue. I flag him
down. The 50-year-old is a New York City
resident and three-year member of the Clear
program. Was he concerned at all, I ask,
about giving a private company his fingerprints simply for the
ability to skip a line?
He seems surprised by my question. “Clear having my finger-
prints is the least of my worries,” he says. “I’m more worried about
my computer getting hacked or something.”
Americans really hate lines. Clear, the New York–based company
that counts millions of U.S. citizens (or legal residents) as loyal cus-
tomers, is betting that the perk we enjoy for handing companies our
GPS data, contacts, passwords, and home address—convenience—
will also entice more of us to fork over the last piece of personal data
we retain in the digital age: our bodies. After persuading members
to trust it with their fingerprints, irises, and faces (for $179 annu-
ally), Clear treats them to speedier, more seamless experiences at an
increasing number of places known for congestion and inefficiency.
Clear’s revenue more than doubled in the past year, and the company
became profitable in the fourth quarter of 2017. Its biometric service
enables fliers at 25 U.S. airports to skip the line for ID verification and
scurry straight to the scan, while sports and entertainment fans who
attend its 14 partner venues can bypass those s weaty security queues.
A few days after my visit to Yankee Stadium, I meet Clear cofounder
and CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker in a monochromatic conference room
at the company’s Fifth Avenue headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
She’s sporting a chic bolero jacket over a tee that reads ;;;; ;; ;;;
;;;;;;. I ask her to explain her vision for how Clear can use our
biometric data (fingerprints, irises, faces, and voices) to change the
world, and before she answers, she extends an index finger and says,
“Hold that thought for one second,” then retrieves her white leather
wallet and holds it aloft. “This? This. Makes. No. Sense,” she says, braking after each word. She flings the contents of the wallet—insurance
card, Global Entry card, driver’s license—across the conference room
table. The platinum and gold Amexes land with a thud in front of me.
“If you were starting the world today, you wouldn’t do this,”
Seidman-Becker says. “Estonia [has] 1. 6 million digital identities,
digital citizens, who are biometrically connected at birth. I’m not
suggesting that, but I am suggesting that you are you.”
Clear has its origins in a company called Verified Identity Pass
(V.I.P.), which was founded by journalist/author/entrepreneur Steven
Brill to let its members bypass security lines using a smart card re-
inforced with their biometric data. In 2009, after raising $90 million
and amassing some 200,000 users, the company went bankrupt,
unable to recover from the reputational blow it suffered after los-
ing a laptop containing the personal data of some 33,000 members.
Seidman-Becker and her Clear cofounder and president, Ken
Cornick, swooped in with $6 million, much of it their own capital.
The duo had become interested in homeland-defense technologies
as cofounders of Arience Capital, a hedge fund that they shuttered
in 2008 to look for interesting businesses to buy in the wake of the
financial crisis. (“I always said I didn’t want to die and [just] have
people say I picked good stocks,” muses Seidman-Becker.) The
partnership they forged with Delta Air Lines was instrumental in
the company’s turnaround: The airline purchased 5% of Clear and
2. VISIT A CLEAR LOCATION
To sign up, you must
present yourself at any
one of the company’s
locations— 25 U.S. airports
and 14 sports venues.
HOW IT WORKS
It takes all of five
minutes to register your
1. MEET MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
You must be a
U.S. citizen or legal
resident and be at
least 18 years old.