March 12, 2007

KIOSKS Security - Registered Traveler Stumbling?

Chicago Tribune notes some of the problems that are cropping up in the Registered Traveler programs which include all types of kiosks. It will make the program more efficient and better in the future.

Registered Traveler plan stumbles | Chicago Tribune

Registered Traveler plan stumbles

By Jane Engle
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
Published March 11, 2007

Here's the hope: You pay nearly $100 and undergo a background check to become a Registered Traveler. Then you zip through airport security.

Here's the truth: You may save time, but you'll still have the hassle because many features of this new program don't yet work. And that raises this question: Is Registered Traveler ready for prime time?

My experience in San Jose, Calif., six days after the program made its West Coast debut on Jan. 23, suggests it's not--at least not yet.

On my visit, special lanes for Registered Travelers were open for business. But no one was using them because the enrollees were still waiting for access cards.

Check-in kiosks to prescreen members were open too. But the shoe scanners and explosives detectors weren't activated, so members had to go through the same security process as everyone else, removing coats and shoes and taking laptops out of bags.

The much-delayed program, overseen by the Transportation Security Administration but run by private vendors, is going nationwide after 18 months of testing in Orlando. It is enrolling thousands of members and gaining momentum, but problems also abound. Among them:

- Card delays. In San Jose, an encryption glitch in processing applications delayed delivery of enrollees' cards, which they need to log onto the kiosks, said Steven Brill, who heads Verified Identity Pass Inc. in New York, a start-up company that runs the program in Orlando, San Jose and several other cities. (Enrollees have since begun receiving cards.)

Meanwhile, in Orlando, more than 30,000 members are being issued new cards because the old ones wouldn't work at other airports.

- Limited availability. At present, only airports in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New York (JFK), Orlando and San Jose operated Registered Traveler; Newark, N.J., was starting enrollment. At some sites, not all terminals participate.

- Industry opposition. The Air Transport Association, an airline trade group in Washington that once advocated Registered Traveler, now says the program diverts limited TSA resources from more broadly focused screening efforts. The association has lobbied airports against adopting it.

Los Angeles International Airport is among the sites that have held off implementing the program. Airport officials have cited the transport association's arguments and a lack of space for new checkpoint lanes.

- Privacy concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union sees "substantial privacy and civil liberties problems" with Registered Traveler, said Timothy Sparapani, the group's legislative counsel for privacy rights. He said the program might rely on flawed databases to evaluate applicants.

The TSA has said it will keep the data secure and provide a system for applicants to resolve disputes over eligibility.

- Customer confusion. Most of the nine San Jose fliers I interviewed about the program had only a vague idea of what it was.

And each Registered Traveler vendor assigns its own name to the program, adding to the obscurity. Verified Identity Pass Inc. calls it Clear ( Unisys, a technology company in Blue Bell, Pa., that plans to launch its version by mid-March at Nevada's Reno-Tahoe airport, calls it rtGO (

Some fliers said they either quickly navigated security without special access or had adapted to the hassle.

Other regulars, such as David Sapoznikow, a market researcher from Seattle, said their elite frequent-flier status already entitled them to use special security lines at some airports.

But a couple of San Jose travelers expressed enthusiasm after I described the program.

"I'd sign up for it in a heartbeat," said Kurt Richarz, a technology salesman from Boulder, Colo., who flies twice a week. "If you save 30 or 40 minutes, it's worth it."

Big companies are looking into it, too, at least for key employees. While I was at the airport, a representative of Google was touring the Clear kiosks.

Caleb Tiller, spokesman for the National Business Travel Association in Alexandria, Va., which represents about 2,700 corporate travel managers and providers, said demand for the program had been "really high" in Orlando.

Dismissing start-up glitches as "hiccups on the way," Tiller predicted that hundreds of thousands of travelers would eventually sign up as the program spread to more airports, making it "exponentially more valuable."

In an interview, Brill of Verified Identity Pass Inc. defended his decision to roll out Registered Traveler before all the technology was approved.

"If you build a house," he said, "wouldn't you install the Internet lines before you get a computer?"

He added that his company was working closely with the TSA to obtain needed clearances.

Predictability is the key, he added.

Rest of story

Posted by staff at March 12, 2007 06:52 AM