It’s been awhile since we’ve blogged about the fingerprint battle between ride-sharing giants and several local governments, but it is still raging. Both Uber and Lyft have announced they will soon be pulling out of Austin, Texas because the City Council passed an ordinance requiring drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks by February 2017. Voters recently backed them up by passing Proposition One with 56% in favor of requiring fingerprinting.
The ride-sharing companies have long espoused the same position as background screeners when it comes to relying on fingerprint databases for criminal background checks. That position is that fingerprint searches are not the “gold standard” that lawmakers believe them to be.
Fingerprint-based searches rely on incomplete and often out of date information that has to be supplied from all the states and municipalities. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) there are still huge gaps, and at least 10 states have final dispositions for less than 50% of all the cases on the books. That means an employer relying on fingerprints for a criminal background check could get very faulty results by relying on this method alone.
Uber and Lyft already partner with professional third-party background screeners to do their pre-employment checks. If those providers are accredited with the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), as EBI is, then they likely conduct very thorough background checks that give well-rounded pictures of each applicant. These searches would also have to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which protects the applicant in several ways.
This is one of the topics NAPBS addressed on Capitol Hill earlier this spring. Members showed lawmakers statistics on the fingerprint database’s shortcomings and asked that any new legislation drafted include the option to substitute a thorough background screen from a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA).
Austin City Councilwoman Ann Kitchen claims the city would still like to see Uber and Lyft stay, but says they must respect the will of the voters. But why was this question even put to the voters? How many of these voters understand what a fingerprint check really does, or the huge limitations inherent in the system? Now, this young, vibrant city-on-the- move will be a little less accessible simply because voters thought fingerprinting sounded good. Kind of a shame.