California Regulators Decide Against Biometric Background Checks for Uber, Lyft

A regulatory authority in California has determined that it won’t require ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to perform fingerprint-based background checks for their drivers.

California Regulators Decide Against Biometric Background Checks for Uber, LyftThe California Public Utilities Commission indicated its decision in a new report, which still requires approval by a vote, but it appears unlikely that it will be opposed. Essentially, the report argues that current driver screening procedures based on court records and sex offender registries are sufficient to reasonably ensure public safety; it also proposed the introduction of a yearly, non-biometric background check requirement for the companies.

It’s a state-specific resolution to a battle that has been waged across the country, with various state and municipal authorities having sought to establish biometric background checks for the new transportation services for the purpose of public safety. In many cases, heavily regulated taxi industry groups have also lobbied for such measures with an eye to ensuring a level playing field in the market.

Austin, Texas, has proven to be a salient example of the many issues playing out in this debate. City authorities implemented biometric background check requirements last year, prompting Uber and Lyft to cease operations. Smaller ride-hailing services willing to comply with the regulations quickly filled the vacuum left in the market, but months later data from the Austin Police Department did not appear to show any substantial change in crime statistics, suggesting that the background checks were having little effect. State-level authorities later nullified the regulations, and Uber and Lyft returned to Austin.

California’s regulators evidently want to avoid the long and winding road taken in Austin, and to pull out any stops in the way of the major ride-hailing corporations.

Sources: The Mercury News, NBC

October 6, 2017 – by Alex Perala