September 22, 2008 · Lessig
So here’s an embarrassing confession: I’m a member of the Clear program. If you fly a lot, you will have seen a growing number of airports with this beautiful blue cube at a security check point. If you’re not paying attention, you might not understand what they are. These are premium security check points, meaning you pay Clear a fee, hand over some biometric data, and they give you a Clear card. Then you get to use the Clear card to pass through this special security line. (Weirdly, you still need to produce a photo ID, but never mind).
Why would anyone ever do this?
I find the worst part of travel is the uncertainty caused by variable events — the need to bury 60 minutes to be sure that you can get through security when 80% of the time it would only take 20 minutes. For people like Joi Ito (and to a lesser extent, me, meaning people who travel way too much), that adds a huge amount of wasted time to the travel schedule.
The great advantage to Clear is that you are 95% certain that security will take no more than 10 minutes. Usually it is much much less. Meaning you can shave tons of time off of time at the airport, meaning you can add lots of time to time at home (for me, with my kids).
For some of you, the advantage may well be worth the cost. And if it is (and here’s the real reason I’m advertising this here), you could lower the cost to me if you use this referral code — [removed -- see comments] — when you sign up here. That code, in other words, gets me a month free.
Scandalous, I know, me pushing this privacy-reducing technology, though beyond the biometric data, I’m not sure what additional data I’m actually providing to the world beyond what is already there, and I’m not a deep skeptic of biometrics. But there’s no requirement you use it (you’re free, of course, to go through the standard line if you want to), and there’s lots of promises about how the data won’t be used (though of course, in a world of immunity granted to corporations cooperating with the government, no one should trust those promises). But here’s how I calculate it for me: I flew about 50 times last year. If this reliably saves me 30 minutes each flight, that’s 25 hours saved. At minimum wage, that just about pays for the privilege. And at the value I place on time with my kids, it pays for itself many many times over.