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Uber argues to state against calls for fingerprint criminal checks

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Uber’s criminal background checks are just as thorough as they need to be, and fingerprinting drivers would be overly burdensome.

That’s the gist of Uber’s argument to the state, as regulators solicit opinions from transportation agencies and companies from across California.

Around the world ride-hail company Uber has made headlines for high profile assaults and other incidents involving its drivers. Now the California Public Utilities Commission is crafting new regulations for tech transit companies, like Uber and Lyft.

As the San Francisco Examiner has reported, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Airport have called for stricter criminal background checks for those tech companies, among other new regulations.

In filings this week to the CPUC, Uber wrote that the commission’s first regulations have “proven in practice to be protective of riders, [Uber] drivers, and the public.”

Uber conducts criminal checks of new drivers through a company called Hirease, which primarily relies on names and social security numbers.

The local agencies say Uber should use fingerprint criminal checks through the FBI and Department of Justice database, as taxis do. Uber disagrees.

“The FBI’s database suffers from several well known flaws,” Uber attorneys wrote.

Uber’s attorneys allege the Department of Justice database is “over-inclusive,” because it includes records of arrests that “never resulted in prosecutions or convictions.” The database lacks much information, the attorneys argued, which may disenfranchise minority communities.
The data from the Department of Justice also “does not flow through in real time,” they wrote.
The FBI declined to comment. However, Kristin Ford, press secretary with the California Department of Justice, defended the department’s criminal checks.

“The California Department of Justice offers a rigorous, best-in-class background check leveraging biometric data for highly accurate results,” she wrote to the Examiner, in an email. The scale the Department of Justice operates at allows it to keep prices low, she said.
Also, “we work to ensure accuracy by regularly updating our databases,” she said.

CPUC Administrative Law Judge Robert R. Mason will consider Uber and other agencies testimony, and will help craft new regulations for transit tech companies over the next year.

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