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United Airlines offers easier biometric clearance for frequent flyers

The Clear deal is faster, but are you willing to share biometric info?
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United Airlines

United Airlines is joining the likes of Delta and British Airways in using biometric security to speed up your airport visits. The airline has forged a deal with Clear that will bring speedy facial recognition and fingerprint scanning to its frequent flyers, helping them skip the usual document checks. Clear will be available in United's hubs at Newark Liberty International and Houston George Bush Intercontinental this summer, and there are "efforts" underway to make Clear lanes available at Chicago O'Hare in the moths ahead. Many passengers will get discounts on Clear as well, although the amount depends on just how devoted you are.

MileagePlus members can get Clear for $119 per year -- not trivial, but a significant deal over the usual $179. Most United credit card holders, as well as Premium Silver, Gold and Platinum members, will pay $109. Jetsetters with a Global Services or Premier 1K membership, meanwhile, will have access for free.

The arrangement follows United making a "strategic equity investment" in Clear to foster the company's growth.

As with earlier biometric initiatives at airports, this is all about the appeal of convenience -- you can spend less time wading through security and more time at the gate. United can process its passengers more efficiently, for that matter, with shorter lines and fewer flights behind schedule. Privacy and security remain issues, though. While Clear and United stress that the technology is "secure and seamless," it's still the case that you're trusting your sensitive biometric info to a third party. You're counting on Clear protecting the data against breaches and unwarranted law enforcement requests, and those are large promises to make.

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