Uber Vows to Devise a More Thorough Background Check Process to Protect Passengers

By Michael Klazema on 1/2/2015

The ridesharing chauffer service Uber really took off this year, achieving high valuations and expanding to most major metropolitan markets in the United States (and some outside of it). However, the company has also consistently come under fire for not being thorough enough in its driver background checks. That criticism hit a fever pitch early in December, when an Uber driver was accused of raping a female passenger in India. Now, Uber has made a vow to tighten its background check policies, once and for all.

Remarkably, Uber isn't just talking about widening the scope of jurisdictional criminal checks. On the contrary, the company's head of global safety recently said in a blog post that Uber will be looking at systems as diverse as "biometrics and voice verification" as a means of enhancing driver screenings. The company's research and development department will be tackling those futuristic screening methods. There is, of course, little clue of when such systems could be implemented in the company's driver checks, but suffice to say that they could change the landscape of background screenings when they do arrive.

In addition to biometric screening and voice verification, Uber is looking at bringing polygraph tests into background checks as well. Particularly outside of the United States, Uber says it is challenging to collect full driver data through background checks. The company thinks that polygraph tests might be the solution to solve this problem and to "fill gaps in available data." After all, if Uber could detect dishonesty during job interviews, then they could feasibly root out dangerous applicants even without a satisfactory background check at their disposal.

"No background check can predict future behavior and no technology can yet fully prevent bad actions," the Uber blog post stated. With this conversation in mind, Uber also wants to provide failsafe options in case their background checks and pre-screenings don't spot safety risks. Specifically, the company wants to build a network of Safety Response Teams in the cities where it does business. Then, in case of an emergency, an Uber passenger can quickly communicate with company officials to ask for help or assistance.

All of these items are thought provoking, and prove that Uber is willing to improve its safety policies. After so many empty statements throughout 2014, where the company argued that its background check policies were fine, seeing the company exploring new ways of checking prospective employees is refreshing. Even more refreshing is that several of the new policies proposed by Uber's latest blog go beyond the scope of traditional background checks and could change the game for employment screening if their trial runs prove to be successful.

From the sounds of the proposed checks and safety measures, Uber will have to invest a fair amount of capital funding into developing and implementing new background check methods. But if the result of that spending is superior customer safety, then it's certainly a worthy investment.


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  • November 15

    Replacing an inconsistent array of procedures, Ontario's government has passed into law a reform act intended to clarify how police departments should handle requests for information to be used in background checks. 

  • November 14 The federal government has vowed to cut its backlog of security clearance background checks in half by spring. Currently, the backlog is approximately 600,000 names strong.
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