July 26th, 2016 | Sterling

The Problem With Fingerprint Background Checks For Ride-Sharing Apps

Over the past couple of years, ride sharing apps have been on the rise. From splitting fares with friends to quick accessibility, companies such as Uber and Lyft have been redefining the way people are thinking about transportation. With large surges of millennials moving into cities, these apps are more popular than ever before and, in many cases, have become the new norm for getting from A to B.

But, here’s the thing – growth has been happening at an unprecedented rate. According to a new article from Business Insider, Lyft had “2.8 million unique passengers in May (another record) and added 320,000 from April.” The article goes on to state that, “rides increased by nearly 1.3 million month-over-month to 12.7 million, a new record for the company.” While this type of growth is great, it has caused a lot of issues when it comes to government regulations – most recently when it comes to fingerprint background checks for Uber.

The Boston Globe recently reported that Eric Holder, Former US attorney general, “has written to lawmakers on behalf of Uber to argue against the use of fingerprint-based background checks as they consider how to regulate ride-hailing service drivers.” Their argument is that it is “unfair” and “potentially discriminatory,” due to the inconsistency of fingerprint background checks. At the moment, there is no universal standard on how this should be handled, causing a lot of variation from state-to-state.

For example, in New Jersey one bill in the state assembly contains the fingerprint requirement, while another version with the state Senate mandates a background check, but not fingerprinting. The article goes on to state that “fingerprint checks can prevent people from getting jobs even if they were never convicted of crimes.” This is because fingerprint checks were never designed to pre-screen for employment, but instead were created to assist during investigations.

In our recent white paper, “Fingerprints vs. Name-Based Background Checks: And the Winner Is…,” we compare fingerprint checks comprehensive name-based checks to analyze the two. Ultimately, there are some major flaws when it comes to fingerprint-based background checks, including:

  • Voluntary record contributions from individual states resulting in incomplete criminal history
  • An irregular update schedule which can make records weeks or months out of date
  • Frequent lack of a final court disposition which may prevent a hiring decision and may disproportionally affect minority communities

Given the current state of fingerprint based background checks, comprehensive name-based background checks are a much better alternative, as it draws from a larger pool of sources. In fact, according to the Code of Federal Regulations §20.32.b, the FBI Fingerprint Identification Records system excludes “…arrests and court actions concerning non-serious offenses, e.g., drunkenness, vagrancy, disturbing the peace, curfew violation, loitering, false fire alarm, non-specific charges of suspicion or investigation, and traffic violations (except data will be included on arrests for vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence of drugs or liquor, and hit and run),” thereby creating an incomplete record check.

The below chart compares the two for an in-depth look at what is missing.

Search Characteristics Fingerprint Check Comprehensive Name-Based Check
Complete up-to-date case information NO YES
Cite and release cases NO YES
Residential jurisdiction coverage POSSIBLY YES
Re-verification of data needed YES NO
Application rights NO YES
Best practices/national standards NO YES

As ride-sharing apps continue to soar, it the responsibility of the brand to ensure that they are properly screening their drivers to ensure safety all-around, and that is best done with a comprehensive name-based check. For more information between the two methods, you can download our exclusive white paper exploring the differences between Fingerprint and Name-Based Background Checks here.

Fingerprints White Paper

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.