An impending decision in Maryland could have major implications on ride-sharing programs such as Uber and Lyft.
People currently wanting to be a driver for Uber or Lyft apply directly through the company. Both companies would run background checks on individuals based on their names and Social Security Numbers, as well as find all court-related incidents.
As long as the person applying has a clean driving history and a vehicle that meets their standards, he or she will be able to become a driver.
This week, a commission in Maryland will decide whether state efforts to require fingerprint checks will move forward.
Jared Meyer – author of Uber-Positive: Why Americans Love the Sharing Economy and research fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability – is concerned about the requirement.
"Fingerprint background checks were never meant to be a check to determine whether an individual could work," Meyer told OneNewsNow. "They were meant as a law enforcement tool."
According to Meyer, when the database is accessed, which Maryland may force Uber and Lyft to use, the user only get a correct result about half of the time, and this database excludes things such as drunk driving arrests and reckless driving incidents.
"It includes a lot of people arrested for a crime, but then never charged or found not guilty" he pointed out. "So, you have people who are both innocent who are being denied job opportunities – if this goes through – and you also have some pretty dangerous infractions that aren't going to be caught if we require these fingerprint background checks …instead of the name-based ones that Uber and Lyft already use."
This is not the first time fingerprint checks have been required, but this would be the first time a state requires fingerprinting. Both companies may leave Maryland if the requirement goes forward. They left Austin, Texas, over the same issue.
Dave Sutton, who serves as a spokesman for Who's Driving You? – an organization with ties to the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association – favors the fingerprint requirement.
"We're seeing a lot of people hurt by so-called part time drivers," Sutton told The Baltimore Sun last month.
He maintains that passenger safety should be priority number one in the Maryland courts.
"During the past six months in Maryland, Uber drivers have reportedly attempted to murder police officers, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl and kidnapped an inebriated woman passenger,” Sutton continued. “Clearly, Uber's background checks are not keeping Maryland passengers safe.”
The spokesman insists that drivers must be thoroughly screened before signing on.
“Given these allegations, Maryland should not grant Uber a special waiver exempting its drivers from undergoing fingerprint background checks conducted by the FBI," Sutton insisted.