TSA to launch Registered Traveler on 20 June

Published 20 January 2006

Security and privacy concerns about Register Traveler have not subsided, but TSA sets mid-June as launch date for the controversial program, and calls on private companies to apply for the right to run it

The much-discussed Registered Traveler program will be launched on 20 June 2006, Kip Hawley, director of the Transportation Security Administration, announced. The Registered Traveler card would let frequent fliers go through airport security lines more quickly if they pay a fee, pass a government background check, and submit ten fingerprints. The program’s benefits could include passengers not having to take their shoes or coats off or removing their laptops from their cases. Privacy concerns have accompanied the program from the beginning. These concerns were not assuaged by TSA’s plan to have private companies run the program, and allow these companies to examine the credit histories and property records of airline passengers who buy the pre-approved security pass.

Companies which want to participate in the program and sell Registered Traveler cards will have to demonstrate that they can figure out whether applicants are members of terrorist sleeper cells by plowing through bank records, insurance data, and other personal information available commercially — or by some other method. There is already a private company running a Registered Traveler test program at the Orlando, Florida Airport. Verified Identity Pass, which was started by media entrepreneur Steven Brill (founder of CourtTV), charges $79.95 for the card. Earlier this month the company told TSA that it tested whether commercial data services could authenticate that a person is who he says he is. The results: “We dropped the idea after fully testing it and finding that it had no security benefits and significant, almost show-stopping negatives,” the company said in a document responding to the TSA’s request for information.

Other private companies, however, among them General Electric, Annapolis, Maryland-based ARINC, and Moorestown, New Jersey-based Iridian Technologies, along with airports, believe there is money to be made in the business of verifying people’s identity at airports. “Travelers want it,” said Steve van Beek, spokesman for the airport group Airports Council International. “We can accommodate their desire for customer service and provide better security.”

-read more in this report; and see Verified Identity Pass Web site; see also the Web sites of ARINC | Iridian