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How State IT Systems Stack Up Against Ride-Share Background Checks

As the popularity of ride-share services continues to grow, California governments are looking into how these companies manage passenger security.

by Maggie Cabrey, Techwire / March 2, 2017
Fingerprint Photo: Flickr/CPOA
FingerprintPhoto: Flickr/CPOA

As the popularity of ride-share services continues to grow, California governments are looking into how these companies manage passenger security.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held a public workshop on Friday where representatives from ride-hauling organizations and the California Department of Justice (Cal DOJ) discussed the processes they use to verify the identity of employees and whether the companies should be required to run fingerprint-based background checks.

Neither Uber nor Lyft leverage fingerprint data to check employees’ driving and criminal history. Instead, both companies go through third-party contractors that utilize government-issued identification and databases.

Fingerprint databases are generally reliant upon law enforcement and courthouse staff to upload prints and subsequent case history. With this set up, Joseph Okpaku, vice president of government relations for Lyft, said a conviction can be easily missed with this route if an agency does not transmit information in a timely manner. In addition, in the state of California, criminal history cannot be reported if there is no final disposition, which can lead to crimes being unreported.

“We have developed a robust, multilayered background check process that is not only fully compliant with the commission’s current background check rules, but also has critical advantages not found in fingerprint-based background checks,” noted Okpaku.

Lyft and Uber use Sterling Talent Solutions and Checker respectively for workforce screening purposes. Both of the companies said they also use the Department of Motor Vehicles Pull Notification program, which provides automatic updates on motor vehicle-related violations made by a hired driver.

While the companies seemed confident in the solutions they currently have in place, what could the requirement of fingerprint-based checks for the companies mean for Cal DOJ’s systems?

Christina Rogers, assistant bureau chief, spoke on DOJ mandates regarding the collection and dissemination of criminal history, not only to transportation networking companies (TNC), but also various other participating organizations, such as those in the health-care and social services industries.

A staff of approximately 65 in the department is tasked with assuring fingerprint background checks are processed in a timely manner and ensuring any issues are properly researched. During the question and answer period at the meeting, Rogers mentioned the department would look into automated systems and expanding this staff if in the event TNCs are required to run fingerprints, a mandate that could lead to tens of thousands of additional applications for driver data.

Cal DOJ is considering other potential information technology upgrades to streamline criminal history checks. According to Rogers, the Attorney General is re-instituting a statewide committee to work on getting local information consolidated into a statewide repository. California is also monitoring the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “subsequent notification service” for possible deployment in the state. The service, which was implemented by the FBI around two years ago, disseminates any follow-on arrest data to an applicant agency.

This article was originally published on Techwire.

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