Houston’s regulatory department had the F.B.I. conduct criminal background checks on a pool of drivers already approved to drive for Uber and Lyft. The city’s fingerprint-based F.B.I. background checks found several drivers with prior criminal histories including indecent exposure, DWI, prostitution, fraud, battery, assault, robbery and aggravated robbery.
The list goes on.
Houston recently became a serious trouble spot for Uber when a driver was accused of raping a passenger who was severely intoxicated. It later emerged the Uber driver had spent 14 years in federal prison. Houston said the driver would never have passed its fingerprint-based criminal background check conducted by the F.B.I.
Uber has yet to offer an explanation for how this driver passed the company’s background check.
A key criticism in Houston’s paper is that Uber and Lyft do NOT use fingerprints to identify a prospective driver’s identity. Fingerprints are “truly unique search identifiers” says the paper. Instead, Uber and Lyft use name-based identifiers which can be fudged. By way of outrageous example, one Houston Uber driver who passed the company’s background check turned out to have 24 alias names, five listed birth dates, 10 listed social security numbers and an active warrant for arrest.
Uber continues to try to convince lawmakers and consumers that its roundly criticized background checks are actually superior—even to those of the F.B.I. This specious argument is beyond the pale—even for Uber. Given this, one of the most interesting features of the Houston paper is when it quotes Uber’s own background check company, Hirease, in promoting fingerprint-based checks as more secure because they offer “extra protection” and “helps prevent fraud.”
This bears repeating: Uber claims its background screens are superior to those of fingerprint-based checks, but its own professional vetting company, Hirease, says fingerprint checks are better.
Seems nothing is beyond the pale when so much money is at stake.