digital identities and is part of the new Vista operating system, and a multitude of applications built by software companies to identify and credential people.

"There are technologists building interesting key fobs and cards that will sort of cross over between digital identity and the card-based identity we're familiar with," he continued. "Right now, these two different areas are operating on two separate tracks, and they're not really talking to one another."

Harper predicted three possible outcomes, two of which will generate lots of bad PR: First, government ID systems will dominate and citizens will be forced to carry some type of federally issued or designed ID to function in society, leading to the potential invasion of privacy and erosion of civil liberties.

Second, government ID systems could wither on the vine despite significant public-sector investments, potentially wasting tens of millions of dollars.

"The one that makes the most sense is for the government and the people developing systems in the private sector to start to work together so private entities accept credentials that meet government standards and governments will accept them - and government entities, just like today, would issue credentials that private entities accept," Harper said. "An important part of all that is to use credentials that are nonidentifying, when they can be used."


In the Clear
Harper cited the Clear program as an example of how such a partnership can work.

Clear is the brainchild of journalist and media mogul Steven Brill, who founded a Verified Identity Pass (Verified ID) in 2003. The company started enrolling members in Clear's pilot at the Orlando, Fla., International Airport in mid-2005.

Joining the Clear program requires a visit to the company's Web site to submit basic biographic information, including name, address, previous addresses and Social Security number. The next phase requires an in-person appointment at a ClearSpace Enrollment Station, found at participating airports, or one of the company's recently created mobile enrollment stations.

At this visit, a person submits a photograph and biometric information - iris images and 10 fingerprints - and presents two pieces of U.S.-government-issued identification from a preapproved list. Verified ID sends the applicant's enrollment information to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for a security-threat assessment. The TSA simply approves or denies the applicant without divulging assessment details to the company.

If an applicant is approved, he or she receives a Clear Card in two to four weeks, and can use it to bypass typical airport security procedures at any of at least seven participating airports, including the Orlando Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Verified ID announced it had enrolled 48,000 travelers in the Clear program as of June 5, 2007. Public interest in the program seems strong, given the steady growth of applicants since 2005, but despite interest in what Verified ID calls the "voluntary identity credentialing industry," the public sector must do its part.

The TSA's Registered Traveler (RT) program is the government's part of the expedited security screening equation. Created in conjunction with private industry, the RT program is designed to be market-driven. The TSA acts as facilitator by setting program standards, conducting security-threat assessments, performing physical screening of passengers at TSA checkpoints, and providing certain forms of oversight for private-sector program participants.

Private-sector firms, like Verified ID, assume responsibility for enrollment, verification and related services.


Need to Know
Perhaps the Clear Card's most attractive aspect is what it doesn't do.

The card is a credential that tells TSA staff the cardholder passed the TSA's security-threat assessment process and is authorized to use ClearLanes to bypass some aspects of airport security. The card does not reveal the cardholder's identity to TSA staff,

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor