Users of CLEAR, the expedited security system that allows travelers to skip ID verification, received bad news earlier this month when it was revealed that TSA officers could start traditionally verifying IDs. At the time, reports said that the change had stemmed from a security incident last summer.
This week, more details broke on the nature of that security incident, calling into question the near and long-term future of CLEAR in airport security.
According to Bloomberg, the incident took place last July when a man using CLEAR got through security lines at Reagan National Airport near Washington D.C. before a scan detected ammunition in his possession. When police were called to investigate the man, they discovered that he had managed to get through the CLEAR lines using a false identity.
The incident, which CLEAR categorized as a case of human error, has, according to Bloomberg, “culminated in a high-stakes face-off between the agency and the publicly listed company.”
That face-off made headlines during those reports from earlier this month that the TSA had instructed its own agents to verify CLEAR travelers instead of allowing its system of facial recognition to do so.
According to Bloomberg, the TSA has now called into question nearly 49,000 CLEAR users whose CLEAR photos were “non-matches” to their IDs, whether it was because of blurry photos or faces obscured by masks or hoodies or, in some cases, photos not of a face, but of a shoulder and ceiling.
CLEAR has defended its operations by explaining that all new members with unclear photos have their IDs manually verified by at least two employees, which the TSA said was a process prone to error. CLEAR also said that the 49,000 total is less than 1% of all CLEAR users.
Still, the incident and investigation by the TSA, which reportedly revealed more incidents, could mean changes in the future. The TSA has reportedly pushed back its plan to screen all CLEAR members traditionally, but is still in a dispute with CLEAR that “could threaten CLEAR’s business proposition: speeding people through airports.”