Uber and Lyft’s arguments against fingerprinting make little sense


By Editorial Board January 2

MANY OF the nation’s biggest cities have tried to require ride-booking services such as Uber and Lyft to establish fingerprint background checks for their drivers, in the interest of public safety, only to discover that the companies, which hate the idea, have them over a barrel. The pressure on local leaders can be intense: Don’t they want their town to remain in (or join) the 21st century? And what about the thousands of people who make ends meet as part-time drivers in the gig economy — don’t they deserve the extra income?

In the face of threats by Uber and Lyft to leave or stay out of a city, a county or even an entire state, many public officials have buckled, much as Maryland’s Public Service Commission did last month in dropping its effort to force fingerprint background checks. (It did beef up rules for biographic background checks.)

The fact is that fingerprinting is widely required for bus, taxi and limousine drivers; it is generally regarded by law enforcement as the gold standard of background checks. Given reports nationally that some gig drivers have assaulted passengers, fingerprinting makes sense as an added measure to protect the public.

Uber and Lyft complain that fingerprinting is unfair, onerous, racially tilted and unreliable. Those arguments are largely specious. For one thing, both firms submit to the requirement in New York City, and Uber also does so in Houston. In other words, if the city (and profit potential) is big enough, the firms suck it up and bear the burden. And if the city isn’t big enough, the firms have shown themselves willing to walk, as they did when voters in Austinpassed a ballot measure requiring fingerprint background checks this past spring.

The firms say they worry fingerprinting is a hassle that may discourage the flow of new drivers — about a half-million have already signed up across the country. In fact, the burden is minimal: In Houston, prospective Uber drivers pay about $40 to be fingerprinted, a process that takes about 10 minutes.

As for the argument that fingerprinting disadvantages black prospective drivers because they are disproportionately and sometimes erroneously represented in criminal databases — well, yes. Yet few dispute that fingerprinting provides the public with added protection when it comes to hiring bus drivers, teachers, security guards, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, nurses, government employees and many other prospective employees in sensitive occupations that involve interacting with the public.

The firms’ real reason for opposing fingerprinting may be that it (slightly) strengthens the argument that their drivers are employees and not, as Uber and Lyft insist, private contractors. As employees, they would be eligible to press for a range of benefits that would upend the firms’ labor costs and business models.

Uber and Lyft say their own biographic background checks, performed by private contractors, are just as efficient in weeding out applicants with criminal backgrounds. Not many law enforcement agencies buy that. Fingerprinting isn’t a foolproof tool for background checks, but neither are the biographic databases used by the ride-booking services now. The best way to protect the public is to insist on both.


Uber driver charged with attempted murder had an 'Extensive Criminal Record'

Yet he had no problem passing the background check

By Sage Lazzaro • 05/26/16 12:27pm

This isn’t looking good for Uber. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

It seems like an Uber driver is charged with a violent crime nearly every day. It’s not a stretch—just three days ago, we reported on a driver who was arrested for strangling a college student in a dorm parking lot. Now here we are again.

A 52-year-old Uber driver from Gaithersburg, Maryland has been charged with two counts of first degree attempted murder for trying to shoot police officers with a homemade gun. The driver, Jonathan Hemming, is also facing 17 additional assault, drug and weapons charges. According to WJLA, he has “an extensive criminal record” that includes weapons possession, arson, armed robbery, burglary, vehicle theft and more, yet Mr. Hemming had no problem passing the Uber background check.

The incident occurred last week when Montgomery County officers surrounded Mr. Hemming’s car to arrest him on a bench warrant for multiple drug charges. He allegedly resisted arrest and attempted, but failed, to fire at the heads of two detectives with one of the two weapons police say he had in the vehicle. After placing Mr. Hemming in handcuffs, officers also found a needle cap, a prescription vial, a syringe, rubber tie off straps, live shotgun shells, live handgun rounds, a pill bottle, a metal pill holder, a handcuff key, garden clippers and a pocket knife in his pants pockets. Although police say there were no Uber passengers in the car at the time, it was confirmed that was the vehicle he is assigned to drive for Uber.

When asked about Mr. Hemming at an unrelated Uber press conference, spokeswoman Meghan Joyce told ABC7, “I can say that we take this responsibility extraordinarily seriously.”

Again, this raises questions about the legitimacy of Uber’s background checks. Uber does not require its drivers to be fingerprinted, which officials say has led to the hiring of several people who have been convicted of violent crimes. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has said that a background check without fingerprints is “completely worthless.” And last month, Uber agreed to pay $10 million to settle allegations by California prosecutors that it misled passengers about the quality of its driver background checks.


In Depth: Ride-sharing drivers pretending to be taxis in violation of state law, getting huge fines


By Vince Cestone, KRON and

Published: May 17, 2016, 11:04 pm  Updated: May 18, 2016, 2:31 pm

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — KRON’s Stanley Roberts goes in-depth about the dangers of jumping into a rideshare vehicle you did not call for.

A KRON investigation reveals rogue Uber and Lyft drivers picking up passengers and cutting out the taxi cab.

KRON’s Stanley Roberts was there for a San Francisco crackdown and explains why you need to think twice before hailing a ride.

Only a taxi driver can be a taxi driver, and while that may sound strange, there is a problem where other people are pretending to be taxi drivers.

So, San Franciso police and the SFMTA conduct regular enforcement stings looking for rogue drivers. Basically, they put two decoys out on the street to hail a ride.

If you are not a taxi, you are not allowed to pick up passengers. However, app-based drivers often do, despite knowing it’s a big no-no.

Stanley rode with plain-clothed officers from the San Francisco Police Department on a crackdown funded entirely by the SFMTA to catch app-based drivers behaving badly.

A ticket from the police is one thing, but an administrative ticket from SFMTA can cost as high as $5,000.

Uber reached out to KRON and wanted to clarify the following:

(We) want to clarify, on background, that Uber only works through the app. Street-hailing is an explicit violation of our terms of service and if (these) drivers are indeed partners with Uber, then they will be deactivated….All drivers undergo a local, state, and federal background check before getting onboarded. During the ride, all trips are GPS tracked and folks can share their trip details with their friends and family. This is the sort of transparency that technology enables. It is also important because the service is completely cashless. So riders and drivers don’t have to worry about carrying cash. After the ride, there is a two-way feedback system that allows us to have quality controls.

Uber added that “there are serious consequences for those drivers who break our terms of service.”

Uber an Lyft leave Austin. Why do they oppose fingerprinting?

Uber and Lyft invested $8.6 million to overturn a city ordinance in Austin that requires fingerprint-based background checks for drivers, but they still lost. 

By Story Hinckley, Staff MAY 8, 2016

Uber and Lyft drivers will require fingerprinting, the city of Austin confirmed in a vote Saturday. 

As of February 1, 2017, all drivers employed by ride-hailing companies in the Texas capital must pass fingerprint-based background checks. Proposition 1, the ballot measure backed with millions from the companies to repeal this city ordinance, was rejected by a popular vote Saturday. 

“Uber, I think, decided they were going to make Austin an example to the nation,” David Butts, who led the anti-Prop. 1 campaign called "Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice," tells the Austin American-Statesman. “And Austin made Uber an example to the nation.”

Recommended: Top 10 cities for 'gig economy' workers

A 12 percent majority voted down Proposition 1, with 17 percent of all eligible voters turning out for the vote. Both companies threatened to leave the city of Austin if Prop. 1 failed, and so far they are both following through with their promises and ceasing operations in the city, beginning Monday.

Nobody wants them to leave and we’re not asking them to leave,” Councilmember Ann Kitchen told KUT News. “The voters have spoken and they want these requirements and I know that we can do that… I don’t know why they would leave. We held the election that they said they wanted.”

Saturday’s election marks the first time that a major US city has held a popular vote on stricter regulations for ride-hailing companies. And judging by the millions of dollars spent on the Prop 1 campaign, Uber and Lyft fear Austin’s regulation may send a message to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta – cities that have contemplated similar laws. 

“Unfortunately, the rules passed by city council don’t allow true ride sharing to operate,” Lyft said in a statement. Lyft, now worth $5.5 billion, says they already require comprehensive safety measures, and that a fingerprinting requirement would make it more difficult for the company to employ part-time drivers. 

Requiring stricter background checks is actually a public safety concern, argued Uber, which is valued about $62.5 billion. Fingerprinting can slow down the influx of new drivers, and a robust ride-sharing fleet is necessary to cut down on road dangers such as drunk driving.

“We hope the city council will reconsider their ordinance so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone,” Uber tells KXAN.

Ridesharing Works for Austin, the companies’ organization promoting Prop 1, spent $8.6 million, an amount previously unseen in Austin politics (the previous record of $1.2 million was set during Mayor Steven Adler’s 2014 mayoral campaign.) By comparison, "Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice," spent roughly $125,000.

It is clear that Uber and Lyft saw national implications with Austin’s local ordinance. 

Fingerprint-based background checks typically cost $40, so those $8.6 million campaign funds could have checked 215,000 drivers. Last year, Uber contracted with about 162,000 active drivers in the United States, while Lyft has more than 100,000. With just $2 million more, Uber and Lyft could have already funded fingerprint-based background checks for all of their drivers.    

“As I talked to voters at the polls and on the phones, many of them like Uber’s service and Lyft’s, they use it, but they drew the line at allowing them to write their own rules,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo tells KXAN. “And that’s really significant.”



Taxi interests win key ruling in suit against city (Chicago)


May 4, 2016, 1:48pm CDT

Chicago’s taxi industry got a boost from a judge’s ruling in a case over whether drivers for app-based car services like Uber and Lyft ought to be licensed.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman denied an attempt by the city of Chicago to dismiss a lawsuit by taxi interests, and at the same time said the city’s attempts to create separate rules for the app-based services and traditional taxis violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Specifically, the judge wrote, “There is no rational reason to distinguish between types of for-hire car with a pre-arranged pickup made through a smartphone app,” the report said.

Those different rules, allowing Uber and Lyft drivers access to pickups on one level while taxi and limo drivers were directed to a lower, more crowded level, were put in place when the city opened up the airports to the app-based car services, the Sun-Times explained. The city maintains it needs to have those rules to maintain order at those locations.

As the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune explained, however, Judge Coleman did not order the city to change immediately. Rather, she wrote that even though the city’s rules are a problem, the solution must come from the City Council.

Alderman Anthony Beale has proposed an ordinance, with majority council support, that would apply similar licensing requirements to app-based car service drivers as limo drivers, the Tribune said.

Attorneys are expected back in court Friday, the Tribune added.



Taxis vs Uber & Lyft in Elgin, IL

Taxis vs UBER & Lyft Elgin UPDATE: This is how the City of Elgin works-

In 2015, The City of Elgin placed a $500 flat yearly license fee on companies like Uber & Lyft. 

In 2015, A#1's taxi owners payed $3225 for taxi vehicle licenses (without safety inspections and driver permit additional costs).

I received my FOIA back from Elgin today (3-22-16) saying Uber & Lyft payed no fees in 2015. They've been operating in the City of Elgin for almost a year ILLEGALLY! Every vehicle caught should be issued a $500 ticket. Elgin Police have done nothing!

If we didn't pay their license fee's we would be shut down in Elgin (you can bet on that).

Where is Elgin's checks and balances? They wonder why they have business issues in this City.

What are we getting for our money? Umm, one taxi stand that holds 4 taxis, where there was 113 registered Elgin taxis in 2015? 

Last, Uber and lyft can simply write a $500 check. taxis have to take the cars to safety inspections give a copy to EPD, then have every taxi checked by EPD, and every driver pays for a permit. We've been jumping through these hoops for 30 years. 


FOIA below.


Request Type:Freedom of Information (FOIA) Request

 Description:Any person who wishes to inspect and/or obtain copies of public records from the City of Elgin shall submit in accordance with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

 Contact E-Mail:jhjelm@live.com

 Reference No:W019700-032216

 Type of Information Requested:Other

 Do you know the department that has the document you're requesting?:Finance

 Describe the document(s) you are requesting:FOIA request # W019539-031016‏ was partially fulfilled. The missing portion is: Has the TNC companies, Uber and Lyft paid Elgin's 2015 license fee? I would like to have this question answered. They do have a license fee. This is the section in Elgin's TNC ordinance. 6.74.020: TNC LICENSE REQUIRED: A. No person shall operate or permit to be operated a TNC in the city without first having obtained a license from the city to do so. B. The city's chief financial officer shall issue a license to each applicant that meets the requirements for a TNC set forth in this chapter and pays an annual license fee of five hundred dollars ($500.00) to the city of Elgin. All licenses provided for in this chapter shall expire on April 30 following the date of issuance. (Ord. G17-15, 2015) This question was not answered in the original FOIA #W019539-031016. Thank you.

 Preferred Method to Receive Documents:Copies by Email

  Please Provide Any Additional Information:


Message History


On 3/22/2016 11:04:40 AM, Elgin FOIA Center wrote:



RE: FOIA Request

Dear Jaime Hjelm,

In response to your recent request for information, we are unable to locate the requested material or no such material exists.  No registrations have been sent in.  No payments have been made.


Please do not respond to this email, it is from an outgoing email box only.


Fiscal Services Department
City of Elgin, Illinois


Article from May 2015-

Elgin regulates rideshare services like Uber

Elgin council members passed new regulations for rideshare services, despite objections from local taxi cab drivers who argued the regulations are unfair to their business.



Taxi and Ride share Regulation Information 2016 by A#1 Cab Dispatch

Taxi and Ride share regulation 2016 by A#1 Cab Dispatch

Uber settles "industry-leading background check" class-action for $28.5M

Plaintiffs: Uber didn't require fingerprints from drivers, so it wasn't top-notch

by Cyrus Farivar - Feb 12, 2016 4:30am CST

Uber has agreed to pay $28.5 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit originally filed in late December 2014 by six men who argued that the startup’s claim of running "industry-leading background checks" was false and misleading. Passengers paid a "safe ride fee," usually $1 to $2 on top of each fare, as a way to offset those costs.

Under the terms of the deal, which was filed on Thursday, Uber will now rename this charge as a “booking fee” and will alter its language accordingly. The settlement also states that Uber and its subsidiary “expressly deny the allegations” and admit no wrongdoing.

Specifically, the consolidated complaint, which combined other similar lawsuits, alleged:

Despite its statements, Uber does not and has never provided an "industry-leading background check process." To the contrary, the background check process used by Uber does not use fingerprint identification and therefore cannot ensure that the information obtained from a background check actually pertains to the driver that submitted the information. By contrast, taxi regulators in the most populous parts of the United States require drivers to undergo criminal background checks using fingerprint identification, usually employing a technology called "Live Scan." Requiring fingerprints for background checks ensures that the person whose criminal history has been run is, in fact, the applicant – and is the industry leading background check process.

Presuming that the federal judge in San Francisco approves the deal, passengers who used Uber in the US between January 1, 2013, and January 31, 2016 are eligible to receive a portion of the settlement. If that pot is divided evenly amongst Uber's 25 million passengers, even after attorneys’ fees, each passenger will receive only around $1.

"We are glad to put these cases behind us and we will continue to invest in new technology and great customer services so that we can help improve safety in the cities we serve," Uber said in a statement on Thursday.


Chicago's differing regulations of Uber vs taxis may Violate equal protection judge says

 Sep. 23, 2015, 2:04pm

Cab drivers in the city of Chicago have long claimed City Hall’s treatment of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, compared to how it treats the city’s taxi drivers, is unfair.

Now, Chicago’s cabbies will have the chance to press that claim in court, after a federal judge said a lawsuit brought by taxi drivers asserting the city has more harshly regulated taxi drivers, while letting ride-sharing service providers off easy, potentially violating constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law, may have some gas left in the tank. 

On Sept. 22, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman rejected the city of Chicago’s motion to dismiss the entirety of a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Transportation Trade Association – a political advocacy group representing Chicago’s taxi drivers – and a number of holders of Chicago taxi medallions.

The lawsuit centers on an ordinance adopted by the city in 2014 to regulate the ride-sharing services, legally known as “transportation network providers.” Taxi drivers said the ordinance subjects the TNP drivers and the companies with which they are affiliated to a much lesser standard than the city applies to taxi drivers.

The taxi drivers note the city requires them to each purchase and maintain a taxi license, known as a medallion. Because the city limits the number of medallions available, the medallions can often take on inflated values. The court documents note the medallions recently have sold at auction for at least $360,000 or more. 

Taxi drivers must also pay the city $1,200 annually, and taxi affiliations must pay $500 each year, plus $15 for each affiliated medallion. 

Taxi drivers must carry city-mandated minimum insurance.

And taxi drivers must also undergo required background checks and drug screenings administered by the city, and submit their vehicles to city inspections, among other “onerous” requirements.

Further, the city sets the maximum meter rates taxi drivers can charge.

By contrast, the TNPs need only pay the city $10,000 annually, no matter how many vehicles it puts on city streets; are required to carry less insurance; and are not subject to city-administered background checks, drug screenings or vehicle inspections, among other differences.

In the lawsuit filed in February 2014, the taxi drivers asserted the differences in the city’s regulations, which they allege make it easier to operate a TNP than a cab service, drive down the value of their medallions, amounting to an unconstitutional taking of the taxi drivers’ property and a breach of contract, as well as an equal protection violation.

Coleman dismissed the cab drivers’ takings and breach of contract claims, agreeing with the city’s assertions the city’s ordinance governing taxis did not create a guaranteed value for the medallions, nor a guarantee the taxi drivers would not ever face competition from other transportation services, like Uber and Lyft.

However, Coleman said the taxi drivers have a much clearer legal road ahead when pressing their allegations the dueling ordinances create an environment in which the city, without legal justification, regulates the TNPs differently from cab services.

“The City regulates taxis and (ride-sharing services) differently in the following areas, among others: background checks, drug tests, vehicle age, maintenance and inspection, insurance, annual fees, and unregulated fares,” Coleman said. “In all these areas the requirements for taxis are far more onerous than for TNPs.”

While taxi drivers would still need to prove their case in later proceedings, Coleman said, for now, the city has not demonstrated any “material differences justifying disparate treatment of taxis and TNPs,” as “each provides for-hire transportation within the city of Chicago, rides can be pre-arranged for a set time, hailed, or virtually-hailed through an app, consumers are contractually bound to pay for the services and may do so by credit card.”

“This Court fails to see how any of the purported differences relate to the stated rationale such that it justifies maintaining substantially heavier burdens on taxis for training, qualifications, drug testing, vehicle condition, insurance, and fees,” Coleman wrote in her opinion. “Both the purported differences between taxis and TNPs and their relationship to the stated rational appear utterly arbitrary to this Court.”

The taxi drivers and the Illinois Transportation Trade Association is represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Miller Shakman & Beem, of Chicago. 

The city is represented by its in-house lawyers in the City of Chicago Department of Law.

Story link- http://cookcountyrecord.com/stories/510639525-chicago-s-differing-regulations-of-uber-vs-taxis-may-violate-equal-protection-judge-says


Organizations in this story

Miller Shakman and Beem LLPSuite 3600, 180 North La Salle StreetChicago, IL 60601

Uber TechnologiesDubai - United Arab EmiratesDubai, Dubai

LyftSan Francisco, CA

City of Chicago121 N LaSalle StChicago, IL 60602

Yellow Cab Affiliation3351 West Addison StreetChicago, IL 60618

Flash Cab5200 Otto AvenueChicago, IL 60656