Privacy and convenience: Is it a CLEAR choice?

Photo from report by Sports Business Daily, “Biometric technology speeding entry at ballpark gates," 11/16/15.

Whether it’s convenience-oriented apps, electronic tolls, or even pre-ordering your latte at Starbucks, consumers are seeking solutions that moves them through their day faster and easier. People want to think as little as possible about basic tasks, and companies are leapfrogging through technology to be that “frictionless” solution.

In many cases, this is creating unexpected “friction” in the area of data privacy. Creating a seamless system often requires giving up elements of privacy. For example, if someone makes a payment by Paypal, consumers usually opt to store their credit card information in the cloud with Paypal to make it easier. More and more, people are making decisions to give up their personal information so long as the benefit is a more efficient lifestyle.

But the New York City-based company, CLEAR, is taking the lead on closing the gap between convenience and security at airports through biometrics. For an annual membership fee of $179, CLEAR members get their own line at participating airports (13 to date) with a 30-second verification using biometric identification that clears the current bottlenecks facing most travelers.

Anyone who has checked their watch while standing in line knows just how stressful it can be to be powerless to move the line faster. CLEAR claims you can get through security in less than five minutes, because of their exclusive "CLEARlanes" at airport security checkpoints. You skip the line and go straight to screening.

The benefits of using biometric identification to enhance security and convenience goes beyond airports for CLEAR. In the wake of increased terrorist threats, security screening are being used to protect attendees at high-profile events. Major League Baseball (MLB) began requiring fans to go through metal detectors last year, and, in response, CLEAR Sports launched in four stadiums – including Yankee Stadium –  allowing fans to skip the security lines and get to their seats faster.

Security screening is just the beginning according to CLEAR CEO, Caryn Seidman-Becker, who sees a future where you can even buy a hotdog with your fingerprint. CNBC reported,While Seidman-Becker sees congestion at airports as a clear opportunity, she wants to push biometric identification even further. The company is testing a pilot program in San Jose, California, where members show up at the airport, put their fingers on the CLEAR machine to prove their identity and their boarding pass immediately comes up.”

Biometric identification is not new. The iPhone 5S unveiled its TouchID fingerprint authentication technology back in September 2013 and many companies are beginning to integrate similar technology. ABI Research predicts that by 2021, the biometrics market will reach $30 billion as the industry shifts toward consumer electronics and banking. For enterprising companies who use technology to build bridges between physical and data privacy security, this means a horizon of market opportunities. For consumers, it means technology will continue to reduce the time it takes to accomplish basic tasks while promising to boost the security of those actions.

“In the [conflict] between providing a great buying experience and making sure that this is really secure, biometrics is the way to provide higher security but also a better experience – it’s a win-win,” Intelligent Environments CTO Clayton Locke told TechWeekEurope.