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The past as prologueThe revival of CLEAR's Registered Traveler program

Published 23 July 2010

In 2003, Steven Brill, founder of Court TV and American Lawyer magazine, founded Verified Identity Pass and used it to launch the CLEAR program at Orlando International Airport; the program made it possible for pre-registered travelers to skip security checks at airports; the initial 8,000 travelers enrolled in 2003, and the service would grow to nearly 260,000 paying customers in a matter of five years; CLEAR went belly up in 2009, and its assets were bought by Algood Holdings, which relaunched the program; “Same brand, same logo, different company,” says CEO Caryn Seidman Becker

The CLEAR program makes a return // Source: zdnet.com

The concept of a registered traveler program originated in November 2001, when the Aviation and Transportation Security Act was signed into law. The law required all passengers interested in shortening the time they spent in security lines at airports to be federally screened.

A year later, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that the registered traveler program had “found support among many stakeholders,” even as the GAO stated that such a program would create new aviation security vulnerabilities. The GAO was uncomfortable with the prospect of registered travelers keeping their coats and shoes on and their laptops in their bags.

 

In June 2003 United Airlines, U.S. Customs, and TSA began recording biometric data of registered travelers between Washington’s Dulles International Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport. Two years later, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Unisys, an international services and technology company, would cooperate to extend the registered traveler program across various airports.

Within the next month, Steven Brill, founder of Court TV and American Lawyer magazine, founded Verified Identity Pass, a New York-based company, and used it to launch the CLEAR program at Orlando International Airport. The initial 8,000 travelers enrolled in 2003, and the service would grow to nearly 260,000 paying customers in a matter of five years.

Over the next few years smaller organizations such as Florida-based Vigilant Solution and Virginia-based FLO Corp. (currently partnered with Cogent and iQueue to deliver RT solutions and services), developed and launched their own registered traveler programs, capitalizing on a business model similar to that of CLEAR’s.

In July 2008 TSA received criticisms when it stopped requiring background checks for the registered traveler program. Shortly after being admonished by the media and those having to endure airport security lines, an unencrypted laptop with the critical information of nearly 33,000 CLEAR customers vanished from a supposedly secure room only to be found, inexplicably, in the same room a few days later with no knowledge of its burglar’s intent or identity. This public relations debacle was CLEAR’s turn for the worst.

On 22 June 2009, CLEAR announced they would cease operations effective immediately, citing an inability of Verified Identity Pass, Inc. to obtain necessary financing (“Registered Traveler program, RIP,” 27 June 2009 HSNW). After filing for bankruptcy, competitors FLO and Vigilant Solutions also ceased operations. Verified Identity Pass subsequently faced a lawsuit on various counts including: ceasing operations and not offering refunds, VIP committed conversion, fraud, breach of