Uber Beefs Up Its Background Checking System

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Uber said today that it has expanded its system for conducting background checks on the drivers in its on-demand ride service network.

In a post published this afternoon on the company’s official blog, Uber said it will now perform federal and county background checks on all new drivers in all American markets. The company will also run federal and county checks on all its existing rideshare partners who have not already cleared them.

These new checks will be performed in addition to the background check system that Uber has used in the past. Up until now, Uber has relied on the background checks already performed by state and local authorities as part of the commercial licensing required for Uber’s black car, taxi and SUV services. Drivers on the ridesharing Uberx service have been screened by Hirease, a third party background check service that uses something called the “Multi-State Criminal Database.”

The changes are key, because Uber’s existing system relying on the Multi-State Criminal Database has not been foolproof. Last month, Pando.com reported that an UberX driver in San Francisco who had allegedly physically and verbally assaulted a customer had passed Uber’s background check system, despite having a criminal record that includes felony and misdemeanor charges and prison time.

In its blog post today, Uber explained the flaws in relying solely on the Multi-State Criminal Database thusly:

“While many counties regularly provide their records to state authorities (who in turn make them available to the Multi-State Criminal Database), some counties do not participate in this reporting the way we and our users expect they should. Similarly, a check relying on the Multi-State Criminal Database may miss records that only exist in the federal database. In our experience, records appearing in one database but not showing up in another is a rare occurrence, but we consider this situation unacceptable all the same.”

Uber has raised $307 million in funding, including a whopping $258 million Series C round led by Google Ventures, since it was founded back in 2009. With this kind of big money comes big responsibility, so it is important to see Uber iterate on its safety processes.