Clear airport security app seeks to mark with US ‘vaccine passport’
By Paresh Dave
(Reuters) – More than 60 U.S. stadiums and other venues are deploying Clear’s app to check people’s COVID-19 status, putting the New York-based company known for its airport security expressways at the forefront of a nationwide debate on “vaccine passports”.
The San Francisco Giants and Major League Baseball’s New York Mets are among the first major companies to ask customers to prove they have tested negative for the virus or are immune to it. While teams accept paper proofs, they encourage uploading recordings to the Clear’s Health Pass feature for convenience.
As with mask warrants, such demands are attacked by Republican politicians and anti-surveillance activists, as non-American intrusions into civil liberties. They fear that companies will discriminate against unvaccinated people and unnecessarily accumulate personal data.
Republican governors, notably in Florida and Texas, decided last month to ban some facilities from asking questions about vaccination status, although legal experts say gate checks are legal to protect health public.
Privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned that Clear and other passport apps will hold data indefinitely and turn into consumer trackers. Clear said that users are in control of their health records.
As a business based on replacing physical identifiers, tickets and credit cards with facial or fingerprint recognition, Clear has a huge opportunity in emerging health screening rules that would familiarize more people with its technology.
“Those experiences where you have to prove something about yourself – if we can help the consumer get over that faster – that’s our core business,” said Catesby Perrin, executive vice president of growth at Clear.
Clear has been pioneering coronavirus health apps so far, with partners such as United Airlines for its Los Angeles-Honolulu flights and the Las Vegas Venetian Resort for the conventions it hosts.
With fans eager to return to live sports, the Giants said his promotion generated around 6,000 Clear downloads in April. Across the country, more than 70,000 health passes are used each week for admission to sites, Clear said, although the app is only beginning to check immunization status.
(Graphic: US installations of the Clear app climb as theaters reopen: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/VACCINE-APP/azgpoxorbvd/chart.png)
Excelsior Pass, funded by the state of New York, also supports verification of tests and vaccinations within the state. The app generated 500,000 certificates in April and a companion app that allowed businesses to verify they had 40,000 installations, New York spokesperson Jennifer Givner said.
IBM Corp, developer of Excelsior Pass, is in talks with other states, Vice President Eric Piscini said.
In Europe, several governments have introduced apps that may be needed to access transport, gyms and restaurants, while the 27 countries of the European Union struggle to develop a ‘gateway’ that will allow them to work beyond borders.
The airline-backed Travel Pass and the non-profit CommonPass, which has been installed about 20,000 times in the past two months in the United States, are being tested for international flight checks.
It is still unclear whether high-tech options to prove medical condition will be badly needed. At best, apps would combat fake records by validating information against public health databases, but that’s no small feat.
Piscini said there was a need to access at least 64 separate databases in the United States. But California, for example, has yet to say if and when it will share recordings with apps.
Clear began testing access to immunization records, but declined to release details.
New online tools that have gained a few thousand users, including VaxYes and ConfirmD, attest to the veracity of vaccine certificate downloads by asking healthcare professionals to eliminate counterfeits.
“The demand (for automation) is there. There are just a myriad of different hurdles to overcome,” said Mohammad Gaber, managing director of developer VaxYes GoGet.
AIRPORTS AT BALLPARKS
Clear users upload a driver’s license or other ID and take a selfie, which the system checks to make sure they match before logging in to COVID-19 test results from hundreds of labs or the proof of vaccination.
Some sites also require Clear symptom investigation or automated temperature monitoring at a Clear kiosk.
Users get a “green” pass with their head photo and a QR code to show staff or scan at entrances. The sites pay for the system.
Texas music festival Electric Cookout has adopted Health Pass to reduce the risk of an outbreak, said co-founder Pooja Shah. About 50 out of 1,200 participants used it at an event in April and were given access to special areas, she said.
Clear’s core service, priced at $ 179 per year, allows customers to use biometric scans to bypass ID card inspections at nearly 40 U.S. airports. It also offers a free service allowing registered users to cross “clear lanes” to access places of entertainment.
Combining subscribers and non-paying users, Clear, whose services also run through Alclear and Secure Identity, said it has around 5.7 million members.
The company will not disclose its financial results, but in February announced a $ 100 million funding round with investors including growth company General Atlantic and the National Football League’s 32 Equity fund.
Clear still has some hurdles in gaining acceptance and making people comfortable with its use.
The Seattle Mariners baseball team promoted Clear’s technology for ID-less beer purchases from 2018 to 2019. The team said the effort did not generate “significant” usage data.
The Washington state alcohol regulator said Clear could not be the “only methodology for determining legal age.”
Clear said he was happy with the results and continues to educate regulators.
The Giants are aiming to enable cardless dealership sales this year, and its business development manager, Jason Pearl, is excited about Clear’s technology. “I don’t think anyone else is approaching it.”
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Bill Berkrot)