Clear Shutdown Leaves More Than 250,000 IDs in Limbo

Dennis Faas's picture

The company responsible for creating a database containing thousands of identities collected at U.S. airports has shut down.  And so, the question remains: what happens to your personal information when a government-sponsored National ID scheme like 'Clear' suddenly shuts down?

The fate of more than a quarter million people whose fingerprints, social security numbers, home addresses and other revealing personal information allegedly designed to help hasten traveler clearances at airports is hanging on that question, and even the government doesn't know the answer. (Source:

Who Keeps Your Personal Information?

The sudden shutdown of the Clear program that was run by Verified Identity Pass Inc. raises concerns about who keeps your personal information, how well it's protected against theft and whether it could be sold to the highest bidder.

Security experts, and some members of Congress, are beginning to trace the data trail.

Clear said the personal information it gathered will be secured and handled according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) standards and that appropriate steps will be taken to delete the information.

Clear Airport Kiosks Wiped Clean

Verified Identity Pass, in a statement on its web site, said that all of its Clear airport kiosks have been wiped clean of data and that employee laptops were in the process of being wiped clean.

Clear was a private company, but it was required by law to follow TSA guidelines in reporting personal information to the TSA so its members could go through special fast-lane security lines at about 20 airports.

People Could be Vulnerable to a Security Breach

Verified Identity Pass wiped personal information clean, but the TSA hasn't, refusing to say whether it will delete the Clear information it has stored or not. Intimate information shared with the TSA could end up leaving some people especially vulnerable should there be a security breach.

Besides the usual information such as social security numbers and home addresses, Clear took eye scans, fingerprints and digital photos of all its approximately 260,000 members.

TSA Has Lackluster Record Protecting Data

In 2007 the TSA lost an external hard drive that contained personal and financial information on 100,000 current and former agency workers. Thousands of Americans' personal information was exposed by the TSA in 2006 when they launched an unsecured web site for travelers whose names were erroneously put on airline watch lists.

In 2008, the TSA suspended the Clear program when a laptop containing pre-enrollment records of about 33,000 customers was lost at the San Francisco International Airport.

TSA's policy isn't clear on on what happens to data if a company such as Verified Identity Pass shuts down, and it appears that the TSA isn't properly prepared to handle dealing with the removal of such a large amount of information. (Source:

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