After Threatening To Leave City, Chicago Will Not Require Uber, Lyft Drivers Provide Fingerprints

Image courtesy of Richard Phillips

Earlier this week, it looked like Chicago was about to become the biggest city to require that drivers for services like Uber and Lyft provide fingerprints to check against existing criminal databases; but after intervention by the Mayor Rahm Emanuel — whose brother is an Uber investor — Chicago city leaders have approved a compromise version of these rules that kick the fingerprint can down the road for at least another six months.

Over the last few years, a small number of Uber and Lyft drivers around the country — including Chicago — have been accused of assaulting and otherwise harming customers, and some of these bad drivers had criminal backgrounds that should have been caught through a proper vetting process.

Companies bolstered their background-check process, and have since argued that a fingerprint requirement is unnecessary overkill. However, some drivers accused in these assault and kidnapping cases have been found to use names and documents belonging to other people. Supporters of fingerprinting believe that this additional step would prevent applicants from faking their identity to get around background checks.

Uber recently stopped operating in Austin, TX, over — among other issues — the fingerprint issue, but a few hours away in Houston it reached an agreement with the city to require fingerprints of drivers there; drivers are now given provisional licenses, but must get fingerprinted within 30 days. Meanwhile, Lyft fled Houston when those rules kicked in two years ago, and it has backed off of plans to enter Austin.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder even got into the fracas, writing to Chicago city leaders, making the argument that fingerprinting may unfairly discriminate against people of color. However, Holder’s current law firm just happens to represent Uber.

Uber and Lyft dangled the threat of exit (Ubxit?) from Chicago, and the city flinched, reaching a compromise that removes the fingerprint requirement from the new rules, but gives Chicago six months to “study” the issue before revisiting it.

Alderman Anthony Beale, who had been behind the stricter version of the ordinance, said after today’s vote that he promises to raise the fingerprint issue again should the city’s task force determine that ridesharing services should indeed require the prints.

Beale’s original rules also included requirements for ride-hailing services to offer specific levels of service to disabled customers. That too has been stripped by the compromise, replaced by a rule giving Uber and Lyft a year to implement plans for how to handle rides for disabled passengers.

The only new requirement for drivers is that they complete an online course to qualify for a special chauffeur license.

[via AP]

[via Chicago Tribune]

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