Recently, Lyft CEO John Zimmer was interviewed for NPR’s podcast, How I Built This. Zimmer was asked about his company’s criminal background checks and he discussed how his company offers better protection for riders than the fingerprint checks sometimes required of taxi drivers. He’s right.
Lyft and Uber both use name-based checks from private companies to check the criminal backgrounds (if any) of the drivers on their networks. We know from many different sources that name-based checks offer better protection than fingerprint checks, but let’s start with the U.S. Justice Department. In 2006, The Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks said that
[c]ommercial databases…offer other information that may not be available through state and FBI repository checks. A search of commercially available databases may reveal charges and dispositions not reported to the state or national repositories [and] records relating to some offenses are not reported to the FBI…Even state repositories may not have records on less serious offenses that have not been forwarded by local law enforcement agencies. Some of this information may be available through certain commercial databases
In 2008, Congress found that “[n]early 21 [million] criminal records are not accessible by NICS [the National Instant Criminal Background Check System] and millions of criminal records are missing critical data, such as arrest dispositions, due to data backlogs…The primary cause of delay in NICS background checks is the lack of…updates and available State criminal disposition records…and automated access to information concerning [misdemeanor convictions].” Lethal Loopholes; Deficiencies in State and Federal Gun Purchase Laws: Hearing Before the Comm. on Oversight and Gov’t. Reform, 110th Cong. 1 (May 10, 2007), Serial No. 110-9 (Statement of Assist. Att’y. Gen. for Legal Policy, Rachel L. Brand) (“Lethal Loopholes”), 125.