My So-Called (Millennial) Entitlement
I am at the San Francisco International Airport some barely recent morning, registering for a travel program called Clear when the automated kiosk assisting me makes a strange request: “Stand still while we scan your irises.” I’ve barely digested this first ask when another takes its place: this time, the kiosk wants my fingerprints. I find this slightly less alarming; I already use those to access my banking app, buy coins for my mobile games, and unlock the phone that hosts all this information in the first place. But my eyeballs — which I had only just learned could be used as ID, and from a machine at the airport, no less — my dude. Those are the windows to my soul! Ever heard of foreplay?
Clear is a private company that prescreens air travelers using biometric authentication. Becoming a member is like ordering the half-soup, half-sandwich version of TSA PreCheck: it works, if all you want is a taste and are willing to pay for it. With Clear, you don’t need your ID to go through security, but you still have to remove your shoes. You get to wait in a shorter line (sometimes), but you still have to take out your laptop. Basically, the Cleared still participate in the most annoying aspects of air travel and pay almost 10 times the PreCheck fee for the privilege.
If the worst has already happened, that means it’s survivable.
How we decided on this valuation of convenience—it’s $179 per year—is not the point, though. My point is that some random startup casually acquired my eye-prints, and some small voice is telling me I should care more than I do. Someone out there definitely cares about this, no doubt. I’m sure at least one other traveler was not sated when a brisk Google search revealed that Clear is based in her hometown and run by a female CEO, ergo it must be a secure and entirely trustworthy business.
But I was sated. It’s the future, right? What’s the worst one could do with my retinal scans? I already gave my social security number to Camel in exchange for a pack of promotional cigarettes one time (or 12). Somewhere in Midtown Manhattan, a market-research firm knows how many…