Clear Gearing up to Return to Airports

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Clear is back. The troubled U.S. company that, for a fee, bumped travellers to the front of airport security lines has found a new owner and is now gearing up operations, according to its newly reactivated Web site.

Founded five years ago by CourtTV founder Steven Brill as a way to speed up travel for frequent flyers, Clear abruptly declared bankruptcy in June 2009, leaving nearly 200,000 customers in the lurch.

After spending nearly a year queuing up with the rest of us, and in the dark about their data, Clear flyers now have some answers, but questions remain. Yes, the company plans to let them jump lines again -- however, there are still a lot of questions about how exactly Clear plans to resume business.

The company quietly turned its new Web site back online Monday, announcing that "Clear is Back."

Clear has new owners too -- a New York investment firm called Algood Holdings, which is also supplying executive management. The company's CEO is Algood partner Caryn Seidman-Becker. Another Algood partner, Ken Cornick, is now president and CEO of Clear, officially known as Alclear LLC, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The new company plans to honor existing memberships, but will not pay out any refunds. It's not clear if Clear plans to credit customers for the lost year of service. For a US$199 annual fee, customers could go through Clear's fast pre-screening process and jump to the front of U.S. Transport Security Administration security lines at about 20 airports.

It's, well, unclear exactly when customers will be able to do this again. Clear shut down its airport kiosks last June and has not reopened them."We are working hard to sign airport agreements in order to bring back the Clear service in as many markets as possible," the company said in a FAQ document posted to its Web site.

Customers should keep their old Clear cards, which will work in the new lanes, whenever it becomes available.

The company didn't say which airports were expected to start up with services. "We are in discussions with multiple airports to re-introduce the Clear service," the FAQ said. "We will have more to report over the next few months as we finalize our agreements."

Clear also provided few answers about the most controversial component of its break up: What is to become of sensitive customer data? In addition to fingerprints and retina scans, Clear members also handed over sensitive financial data -- employment history, financial data, Social Security numbers -- and some had worried about this data being auctioned off to the highest bidder following a bankruptcy.

The new Web site has a new privacy policy, but that only covers data added to the Web site since Monday, not the comprehensive database of customer biometric and financial information.

The company still keeps a copy of its old privacy policy on its Web site, written by Clear's previous owner, Verified Identity Pass. But it doesn't say whether it is planning to introduce a new privacy policy.

Clear doesn't say if it will delete the data of former customers who no longer want anything to do with the service. However, it does say that it will keep old customer data safe, and that it plans to move it from the data center where it's been kept since June of last year to a new secure facility sometime in the next two months.

Clear didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment for this story.

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