Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft are fighting municipal legislation encouraging them to adopt fingerprint-based background checks for drivers in Austin, Texas.
The legislation offers special privileges to drivers who undergo the fingerprint-based background checks, such as access to high-traffic areas at city events. But the ride-sharing companies see it differently, with Uber having issued a press release in which it asserts that the conditions “would penalize drivers who are unable to complete the city’s duplicative background check by revoking their access to critical earning opportunities.”
While it’s reasonable to speculate that the city council issued the ordinance at least partly due to pressure from Austin’s taxicab lobby, it’s ostensibly aimed at keeping users of the ride-sharing services safe. While Uber itself has suggested it would consider biometric driver checks in the wake of sexual assaults against its passengers, the company is now working with Lyft and other supporters to fight back against Austin’s city ordinance. They say they have collected 65,000 signatures for a petition against the ordinance, and they have submitted 23,000 of those for verification by the Austin City Clerk. Once received, that will force the city to revert to previous, less restrictive regulations, or else put the matter to a municipal referendum.
While these countermeasures are unique to Austin’s political framework, they could have implications in other cities where these ride-sharing services operate, though the issue seems to be more about citizens’ appetite for these services than how they feel about biometric background checks.
January 27, 2016 – by Alex Perala