By Jim Towey
Perhaps you’ve seen the CLEAR entry lines at airports or sports stadiums and been solicited by their “ambassadors” who entice you with an offer to speed through security if you will let them scan your eyes, face and fingerprints.
I don’t fault anyone who has succumbed to these appeals by the CLEAR reps. Two weeks ago I was in a very long line at Reagan National Airport and watched these folks employ sales tactics to weaken the resolve of suspicious passengers by pointing out the costs and hassles of missed flights due to the long TSA delays.
A CLEAR privacy invasion
Americans have grown so numb to invasions of our privacy that what CLEAR pitches feels no different than the unlocking of a private cell phone with a fingerprint or face. And besides, CLEAR’s project seems safe, if not a government-endorsed initiative. Why else would CLEAR be granted a dedicated perch from which to solicit customers? (You would think a company named CLEAR would be transparent and publish how much it pays airport and governmental authorities for the right to solicit captive queues. No chance.)
CLEAR now has almost 6 million people signed up. Beyond the revenues generated from the monthly fee its users must pay, CLEAR’s goal is to compile a huge database of humans and monetize it by making the use of biometric data for identification as routine as ID card checks. That’s why CLEAR doesn’t charge for its stadium service. One Aging with Dignity employee had the choice of using CLEAR’s facial recognition technology to attend a health conference, or staying home.
Demeaning human dignity
Isn’t it a bit ironic that a multi-billion-dollar public company promising to “confirm your identity” actually exists to attack it? Humans aren’t canned goods imprinted with bar codes that get scanned at grocery stores. We have been made, as scripture says, “little less than the angels.” CLEAR doesn’t see it that way. It treats us like commodities. It invades personal privacy. It demeans God-given human dignity.
Borrowing the words of E.B. White, CLEAR “steals God’s stuff,” confiscating the identifying information uniquely implanted on our face and hands, and proudly advertising its methods as certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a “Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology.” CLEAR officials deny that the information it collects might be used to facilitate the government’s surveillance of citizenry to track people’s movement and associations (as now routinely occurs in China). “We do not conduct passive monitoring,” CLEAR representatives told Congress. “We will not sell or rent your data.”
Set your watches now for when those firewalls fail. It will take one government-declared public emergency, or one enterprising hacker, for the unauthorized use of your data to occur. You don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to see the possibility for abuse. Aren’t we now watching how private Big Tech companies can censor citizens and control their behavior in ways that would be unconstitutional for government?
What will happen if biometric data is hacked, illicitly accessed, altered or used against us? With stakes so high, can’t there be a public discussion about this? If your private email information is hacked, you can change your password. But if your biometric information is hacked, what recourse do you have?
The biblical story of the twin brothers Esau and Jacob is instructive here. Esau traded away his birthright to Jacob for some bread and lentil stew because he was hungry and in a hurry. What followed was the great and long line of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and not Abraham, Isaac and Esau.
We can learn from Esau’s hasty decision under pressure and refuse to trade our most private of information for a little momentary convenience. Say no to the scanning of humans for biometric data, and demand accountability from the authorities who financially profit from such arrangements. If you have given up your biometric information and regret it, then demand it back.
You are an unrepeatable, unique blend of body, mind, soul and spirit and made in the image and likeness of God. Don’t let anyone steal “God’s stuff” from you.