Uber, SF clash in state talks over fingerprint criminal checks

(S.F. Examiner file photo)

San Francisco officials and ride-hail company Uber clashed in state legal filings over the possibility of fingerprinted criminal background checks of Uber and Lyft drivers.

The filings were only made public over the last week, but were filed over the last few months at the California Public Utilities Commission as the agency ponders new regulations for ride-hail drivers in the near future.

If enacted, the fingerprint criminal checks for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hail drivers would resemble the checks of taxi drivers. Right now, ride-hail drivers are only checked by third parties through publicly available court records, using names and social security numbers.

Attorneys for Uber’s subsidiary, Raiser, argued fingerprinting drivers unfairly impacts communities of color, as the Department of Justice database, they allege, tends to “exaggerate” the significance of arrests that do not lead to a conviction.

“The higher arrest rates for African Americans and other minority citizens, results in a discriminatory impact,” Uber’s attorneys wrote. “It is an unfortunate truth that members of minority communities in the United States have been arrested at disproportionate rates.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco International Airport, in their legal filings to the CPUC, argued Uber’s criminal checks allow dangerous drivers behind the wheel.

The San Francisco agencies wrote, “The commercial background investigation firm that Rasier-CA (“Uber”) uses failed to detect criminal histories of drivers who had disqualifying criminal histories.”

The criminal background check Uber used, San Francisco officials argued, was substandard and allowed approved drivers with histories of murder, sex offenses, kidnapping, assault, robbery, burglary, fraud, identity theft, reckless driving, and driving under the influence.

Uber declined to make public answers to certain questions the CPUC asked them, like how many people applied to be a driver in California in 2014, 2015 and 2016, for instance.

Uber also said it doesn’t check the ethnicity of its drivers, and does not know how many of its drivers who were rejected for criminal purposes were of particular ethnicities.

No definite date has been set for the criminal background check regulations to be proposed.

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