Background Checks for Ride Sharing Services Like Uber and Lyft

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What Ride Share Companies Don’t Want You To Know

Teachers, real estate agents, security guards, nurses. Every day we come into contact with a number of service providers who we know have been thoroughly vetted for the safety of the public at large. We trust them with our health, our safety, and in many cases our personal information. But do you know who’s driving you when you use a ride sharing service like Lyft or Uber?

You may be shocked to find out that, in most localities, these drivers don’t undergo the same background checking process that taxi drivers undergo, which includes checking a driver’s fingerprints against a national criminal database. Using fingerprint background checks is superior because no matter what name a crime was committed the fingerprints tie that crime to the person.

Looking through a recent string of events, it’s not too hard to figure out why citizens and lawmakers are alarmed at the lack of proper background checking. Here are facts on ride sharing incidents from around the world provided by Who’s Driving You, a public safety initiative through the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) :

  • To date, there have been 49 deaths caused by Uber and Lyft drivers.
  • There have been 92 alleged assaults by Uber and Lyft drivers.
  • There have been a staggering 363 alleged sexual assaults and harassment incidents by Uber and Lyft drivers.
  • There have been 16 alleged kidnappings by Uber drivers.
  • Twenty-two instances of felons behind the wheel of Uber vehicles (those are only the ones who have been caught).
  • Numerous other serious incidents, including crimes involving individuals posing as ride-sharing drivers, have been reported.

In fact, Uber is now facing a class action lawsuit claiming that assaults by drivers have resulted from inadequate background checking. The class action lawsuit filed in a Northern California District Court on November 14th, 2017, on behalf of two unnamed women alleges that “thousands of female passengers have endured … rape, sexual assault, physical violence and gender-motivated harassment” since Uber’s 2010 launch, and that Uber has “created a system for bad actors to gain access to vulnerable victims.” This is one of many pending lawsuits relating to crimes committed by Uber drivers. A predator will find its pray using a path of least resistance. While we appreciate the technology the rideshare companies have created, their corporate responsibility to public safety should come before profits.

Uber’s Background Checking Process for Drivers

So what type of background checks are Uber drivers undergoing before getting behind the wheel to pick up customers? Recently, Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, announced that annual criminal background checks will be mandatory for all U.S. drivers. These checks will be done through Checkr. Additionally, Uber has contracted with another company (unnamed) to monitor criminal arrest data from the past seven years. These measures are being taken following a rash of bad publicity due to recent crimes committed by drivers. There are a few problems with this. A potential rideshare driver can give any name and basic data information and that is the criminal history record that is run. We should not assume that all applying rideshare drivers are going to be forthcoming on their personal information if they have disqualifications that would prevent them from driving the public. If the driver has disqualifying crimes over 7 years, the rideshare companies will still allow the driver to drive the public. This is a big difference being that taxi and limo criminal history checks go back to age 18. There are even reported cases of drivers with a misdemeanor that were not approved to drive for Lyft but were approved to drive for Uber.

Mandatory background checks are a good start, but there is a key component missing—fingerprinting. The biometric data through a fingerprint background check is far superior to relying on a criminal to be honest about their personal data. Uber states that fingerprint checks are “an unnecessary burden and cost” which would hamper driver recruitment, but given the amount of money they are being sued for involving crimes committed by their drivers, it pales in comparison when considering the safety of the public.

Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are threatening that their fees will have to be raised in order to accommodate this type of legislation. The disturbing truth is that if fingerprinting-based background checks were imposed, roughly 20% of Uber and Lyft drivers would not qualify to drive. This in and of itself is a threat to public safety.

The public also sees the importance of thorough fingerprint-based background checks for drivers. In fact, in 2016, 56% of Austin, Texas, residents voted down a measure which was set to overturn the city’s mandatory background check for new drivers. Rather than cooperate, Uber and Lyft temporarily shut down service in the city. The proposition was overturned by Texas HB100 over a year later, which stipulated that municipalities couldn’t enforce their own requirements, opening the door for ridesharing companies to continue to operate by state standards—with a permit and background check (no fingerprinting required).

There is no doubt that in the coming election cycles, Uber and Lyft will be front-and-center in the minds of voters across the United States as several state and local officials have proposed fingerprint-based background checks for drivers with ridesharing services.

Fingerprint-based Background Checks vs. Other Background Checks: What’s the Difference?

Many people don’t realize that there are stark differences between fingerprint-based background checks and other types of background checks, including the online checks done on Uber drivers.

By law, states like Nevada require fingerprint background checks for over seventy different professional categories in order to obtain employment and licensure. Here are some reasons why fingerprinting should be an essential component of a comprehensive background check for ride-hailing drivers:

  • Fingerprint background checks are the only accurate method for identity verification and results linking the applicant to the criminal background check results.
  • Fingerprint-based background checks are over 99.6% accurate when used with the Next Generation Identification System, which is the database used by the FBI.
  • In contrast, name and date of birth background checks are only 60-70% accurate assuming that the applicant is being honest when providing their personal information.
  • Criminal experts state that fingerprinting and required identification make it easier to catch applicants who lie about their names and other personal information.
  • Fingerprint-based background checks are a deterrent for those with criminal backgrounds.

Washington state is among many that are looking into requiring tougher background checks, including submitting fingerprints. James McMahan, the policy director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said the following to state representatives: “I can give you any name and date of birth that I choose out of thin air or because it’s my friend’s … But I can only give you my fingerprint.”

Nevada Requirements for Uber Drivers

Currently in Nevada, fingerprint checks are not yet in place for drivers, but in addition to Uber’s background check, they must undergo training and a vehicle inspection when they sign up. Proponents of stronger security measures continue to lobby for fingerprint-based background checks.

Also, due to Nevada SB554, as of October 1, 2017, all drive-partners must apply for a Nevada business license and renew it each year. This must be verified with Uber prior to accepting trips.

Concluding Thoughts

People who hail cabs or call for rides sometimes find themselves in uniquely vulnerable positions, so it is particularly important that the public be able to trust those tasked with conveying customers to their destinations. In most states, a customer for rideshare companies have the same rights as a hitchhiker. Requiring fingerprint-based background checks for employees of ride sharing services will go a long way towards establishing that trust and demonstrating care for public safety. If this issue concerns you, consider contacting your representatives to call for more stringent security background checks that require fingerprinting.

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At Fingerprinting Express, we are dedicated to processing highly accurate fingerprint background checks in a timely, considerate manner while protecting the applicant’s personal information. If you are an employer, we can help make your hiring process easier. Contact us today to learn more!