In an effort to counteract the bad press its drivers have received lately, Uber has started running continuous background checks on its employees in order to immediately flag any drivers that may have been charged with a crime.
Since launching the system at the beginning of the month, Uber has already barred twenty-five drivers from working. Now, the company will enact the new testing system for all US drivers. Drivers with prior convictions or charges for felonies, violent crimes, and other offenses, are not allowed to work for Uber. These types of charges will now be monitored in real time.
The new ongoing background checks were motivated by a CNN investigation that showed that more than 100 Uber drivers had been accused of assaulting or abusing passengers. The Uber Vice President of Safety and Insurance, Gus Fuldner, told Axios that the company believes the new testing system “is a way to get the same kind of info as in a background check, but get it in a real-time manner.”
"Safety is essential to Uber and we want to ensure drivers continue to meet our standards on an ongoing basis. This new continuous checking technology will strengthen our screening process and improve safety," Fuldner added.
Checkr, the company doing the background-checks, uses names and Social Security numbers to run checks of court records, offender registries, motor vehicle records, and terrorist watch lists. The system also works with real-time data collection company Appriss, which provides updates with new data from local police departments. Now, when a driver is charged with a crime, Uber will receive an alert, and the company will decide whether to fire the employee or keep them driving.
Despite the changes, safety experts are urging Uber to do more, like conducting in-person interviews and fingerprint checks, which taxi companies require for drivers. Uber has dismissed these demands saying that fingerprint checks refer to past arrests, and may be discriminatory against minorities who face disproportionately higher arrest rates than non-minorities.
After the CNN investigation, Tony West, the chief legal officer for Uber, announced policy changes regarding the company’s handling of harassment and assault reports. One of the changes was to no longer force passengers into arbitration if they accuse a driver of those crimes.
"It's only by accounting and acknowledging [reports] that we are empowered to take action in reducing the incidents of sexual assault," West told CNN. "We want to bring these numbers out in the open. We want people to acknowledge the enormity of the issue, and we want us to begin to think of constructive ways to prevent and end sexual assault."
The company has also pledged to publish a "safety transparency report" to inform the public of how many assaults occur on its platform.