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L.A. Wants To Require Fingerprint Background Checks For Uber And Lyft Drivers

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Ride on, ride on, ride on (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
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Drivers using ride-sharing apps in Los Angeles may soon have to undergo background checks with fingerprint scans—just as taxi drivers do.Mayor Eric Garcetti and two city council members have asked permission from the California Public Utilities Commission to start a pilot program requiring fingerprint-based checks for Uber and Lyft drivers, reports the L.A. Times. In a letter sent to the commission—which regulates the ride-sharing services—Garcetti, along with Councilman Paul Krekorian and council president Herb Wesson, proposed that ride-hailing drivers undergo fingerprinting checks against the state's Department of Justice screening system in order to work within city limits. The program would also include van, shuttle and limousine drivers.

Currently, Uber and Lyft require drivers to undergo background checks using social security numbers, but critics argue that those can be falsified and not reveal possible criminal histories of drivers. In the letter, Garcetti and the council members say that the "opaque" nature of the current practices "is a cause for concern for the riding public."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation requires taxi drivers to submit to Live Scan fingerprinting background checks, and certain charges or convictions will be flagged for review. The letter argues that this is "so that their provided identification can be cross-checked against law-enforcement databases for the purpose of determining a driver's criminal history and verifying driver identity."

The city officials also want Uber and Lyft to provide information about which applicants have been rejected and why, and to know if current drivers would be approved under a fingerprint-based system.

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In an email to the Times, an Uber spokesman said that the companies background check "stacks up well against the alternatives," though he didn't directly address the letter. While a Lyft spokeswoman said drivers undergo "a comprehensive screening process," which includes a background check, as well as an "in-person session where their credentials are confirmed."

Last year, the Times revealed that four Uber drivers who were cited at LAX turned out to have criminal histories that would have prevented them from driving a city taxi.