For decades, in municipalities across the country, cities have imposed background checks for taxi drivers. Uber, along with other ride-sharing companies, has resisted the label of "taxi" and resisted the implication they should have the same types of checks imposed on them.
Uber and Lyft both elected to abandon their Austin market in favor of not accepting the city's requirement for their drivers to undergo fingerprint background checks.
Fingerprint background checks are typically performed using livescan technology and access state criminal history repositories and the FBI database. The FBI database collects data from states and local court systems throughout the country.
The case for fingerprint background checks is that they considered more accurate - name-based searches performed by most private companies rely on accurate name and date-of-birth information to complete reports. Fingerprint background checks are considered less vulnerable to mis-identification. Also, private employers cannot access the FBI database.
Lawmakers argue that the safety and security of consumers is better protected by FBI checks. They feel that ride-share drivers should be held to the same standards of all other ride-hailing drivers.
Uber argues that the FBI database contains incomplete information. Many states do not send updates to the database to reflect changes to the case or disposition. Uber, and other agencies, feel these discrepancies actually contribute to discrimination against people of color, who are arrested at higher rates than their white counterparts, and whose arrests often do not lead to a conviction.
While both sides have fair arguments, they should look to support the bi-partisan legislation pending in Congress. This legislation aims to clean up FBI background checks and track down missing information before information is released to licensing authorities.