Uber, an internationally-recognized ridesharing company, plans to expand its New York services beyond the five boroughs of the city to Long Island and upstate. Car-hailing apps like Uber are currently illegal everywhere in New York State with the exception of New York City. And, despite reluctance to allow the unregulated operation of Uber in other states, a piece of piece of legislation to legalize it in New York State is currently pending. Still, the fact remains: the faultiness of the Uber background check process allows for convicted criminals to get behind the wheel for the company.
What the Uber Background Check Process Entails
The Uber background check process only involves a name-based background check. During this screening procedure, social security traces and name-based criminal database searches are administered. On the surface, this sounds safe—at least there is a screening process in place, after all.
However, a closer look reveals the faulty nature of name-based background checks. In fact, according to a peer-reviewed study conducted by a team of law enforcement experts, they’re up to 43 times more likely to have errors than the fingerprint-based background checks traditional taxi companies are required to carry out by law.
The entire Uber application process is conducted online, which makes it remarkably easy for unqualified criminals to slip through the gaping holes in Uber’s so-called safety procedures.
Evidence of the Unreliability of Name-Based Background Checks
For example, a Florida Uber driver was arrested for his fourth DUI (the first three occurred prior to his employment by Uber) after police responded to calls about him driving aggressively and attempting to hit another vehicle. Clearly, the Uber background check procedure failed to detect the first three DUI charges brought against this man, and ultimately put other motorists and pedestrians in harm’s way.
Perhaps the two most outrageous examples of Uber’s defective screening process come from Houston. After one driver was accused of sexually assaulting a passenger who was severely intoxicated, it emerged that the driver spent 14 years in federal prison—a lengthy prison sentence that a fingerprint-based background check would have detected.
Another Houston Uber driver who passed the background check was later revealed to have 24 alias names, five listed birthdates, 10 listed Social Security Numbers and an active warrant for arrest—all went unnoticed by Uber’s shallow screening process.
The NBC4 Los Angeles Investigative Team looked into Uber themselves. During their investigation, they worked with an ex-felon named Beverly Locke who had a violent past and a rap sheet of convictions including burglary, cocaine possession and the issuance of criminal threats with intent to harm. Locke’s background check came back clear and she was able to chauffeur passengers right away.
The list goes on, but perhaps the scariest part of this all is Uber’s shameless deflection of liability for incidents like these within their very terms and conditions: “you agree that Uber has no responsibility or liability to you related to any transportation, goods or logistics services provided to you.” That’s not the rhetoric of a company that cares about the safety of its passengers.