Earlier this week, following the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber, the company finally admitted it hadn’t been independently background checking its drivers from black car companies. Instead, Uber had been relying on the black car companies themselves to verify the background of its drivers.
This information came to light after Pando reached out to Uber for confirmation of a recent NYT report that said Uber had contacted its drivers, calling them in for “new” background checks. An Uber source clarified it wasn’t the second round, it was the first. Furthermore, this person emphasized that it only applies to drivers from its partner transportation companies because individual ridesharing drivers had already been vetted by Uber.
The black car drivers make up the majority of Uber’s fleet, because they drive for both the black car service and occasionally for ridesharing branch UberX.
Today, Pando has obtained a copy of the email sent by Uber to its black car drivers regarding new background checks. It’s a dense, two page, legal jargon-filled doozy, flagged IMPORTANT in the subject line. In the email, Uber calls it a background check “refresh.”
The email was sent to drivers based in San Francisco last Thursday, January 23rd and drivers have until February 9th to complete the steps demanded in it. If they don’t do so by the deadline, their accounts will be deactivated.
It’s clear from the email that Uber is starting to take the safety issue very seriously, something that will hopefully provide some comfort to Uber passengers. Following the death of six-year-old Sophia Liu and the revelation that an Uber driver accused of assault had done prison time for a felony — any steps by Uber to more closely regulate its drivers should be applauded.
However, if Uber really is taking driver background checks seriously there is still more it can do. Right now the company is using Hirease to perform checks using drivers’ social security numbers rather than the Live Scan fingerprint-based system used by regular cab companies.
Live Scans are the only way to check official FBI and DOJ databases, and the scans extend through applicants’ entire criminal history, if one exists, not stopping at seven years the way credit-based background check databases are legally required to do. Furthermore, Live Scans are updated constantly and will inform the company if an Uber driver commits a crime after being hired. Taxi drivers are, by and large, required to do Live Scans in California.
Again, Uber’s email to drivers is a great first step. Riders will be hoping it is followed by many more.