Why Are Uber and Lyft Opposed to Fingerprinting?

If you live in Austin, TX, apparently you won’t be able to hail an Uber or Lyft ride any longer. The city held a vote and passed into law a regulation requiring fingerprinting for all ridesharing drivers. This, clearly, is a bridge too far for Uber and Lyft, who have thrown an epic tantrum and pulled their operations in response.


I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the law regulates for taxis in Austin, but I fail to see why fingerprinting is such a big deal. In fairness, I’ve been fingerprinted for non-criminal reasons a number of times; three times for work, and once by the state as part of my adoption of my son. It’s a fairly painless process, and I’d say overall it’s taken around 15 minutes of my life to have all this fingerprinting done over the years. It’s also necessary due to where I work, but I’m hardly alone. Here’s a fairly basic list of the types of professions that require fingerprinting, courtesy of Fingerprinting.com:

  • Law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and hospitals require a background check of all employees involved in any capacity.
  • Fingerprint background checks are mandatory for all other government-run institutions as well, including public schools and airports.
  • Any professional whose career involves dealing with minors, the elderly, or other vulnerable people would undergo a background check.
  • A family may conduct a background check on job applicants that will be caring for their children, such as nannies or babysitters.
  • Applying to become a real estate appraiser, loan officer, or mortgage broker can often require a background check before you receive your license.
  • Many other fields require a check to become licensed including: veterinarian, chiropractor, acupuncturist, anesthesiologist, optometrist, and funeral director.
  • Large corporations commonly perform background checks to verify a prospective employee’s identification, criminal history, and employment references.
  • Background checks are required by all businesses in which trust is a vital component of their day-to-day operations, including banks, casinos, and pharmacies.
  • Any job that involves the handling or transportation of hazardous waste, chemicals, or explosives requires a background check.
  • Current employees receiving a promotion that warrants additional security clearances may be subject to a check even if they were already checked when hired.

Note that I bolded the bullet point about minors, the elderly, and other vulnerable people, because that’s key to this debate. Obviously, this is a general information list and not something mandated by any federal or state laws, but it’s a solid point nonetheless. You give up some element of control when you hail an Uber or a Lyft, in that you’re trusting a stranger to safely carry you from Point A to Point B. Plus, the idea behind ridesharing is that your driver is not necessarily a professional, but could be someone looking for extra cash by giving rides. Add into that the number of reports of violence and assault (especially against women) while using ridesharing services, and it becomes really hard to see why Uber and Lyft feel fingerprinting is so wrong. It’s highly unsettling that a service that has weathered repeated accusations of hiring drivers with assault records, and that has had to defend themselves consistently against drivers being accused of rape and assault, feels they shouldn’t have to perform a basic tenet of background checks.

Personally, I understand intellectually that the statistics indicate ridesharing is safe; the vast majority of the time you’re going to get a polite driver who will take you to your destination with minimal drama. At the same time, I don’t feel the companies running these services have any real concern for my safety, and their consistent position that they’re above background checks, proper car insurance, and other requirements makes them look heartless and dangerous, not innovative and disruptive.

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

1 Comment on "Why Are Uber and Lyft Opposed to Fingerprinting?"

  1. This Inc article guesses at a good reason for their reluctance; http://www.inc.com/tess-townsend/uber-rethink-backgrounds.html

    It may be a dumb reason, but my guess is that they’re right.

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