More reports on: Telecom

Uber to tighten cabbie screening; but not very apologetic

18 December 2014

Online taxi service Uber Technologies, which had an infamous molester and rapist as a driver in New Delhi, said it was exploring adding new methods to verify drivers' credentials and make its service safer.

Uber has started research and development on biometrics and voice verification to build tools for enhanced driver screening, Phillip Cardenas, the company's global safety head, wrote in a blog.

The relatively new but hitherto successful firm was also exploring new ways to screen drivers, including polygraph tests and adding its own processes on top of commercial license verifications, he said.

"Of course, no background check can predict future behaviour and no technology can yet fully prevent bad actions," Cardenas said, glossing over the fact that the company had done little if any background checking of the driver concerned. "But our responsibility is to leverage every smart tool at our disposal."

In the United States, Uber's background verification process includes checks of court records going back seven years, a multi-state criminal database, and the National Sex Offender Registry, according to the Uber policy posted on its website.

Activities that disqualify potential drivers include sexual offenses, violent crimes and gun-related infractions.

But that is not the case internationally, where records are not always kept for the same categories of data as in the United States.

"In some countries the integrity of the data can be compromised as individuals may be able to pay monetary fees to have their records adjusted," said a spokeswoman from the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

The San Francisco-based Uber also said it was building safety incident response teams to provide round-the-clock support.

Uber has been dogged by controversy surrounding its aggressive approach to local governments and traditional taxi services.

The company's business practices have come under scrutiny, with some customers alleging privacy violations, as it has grown rapidly around the world in recent months.

France, Spain and Thailand have banned some or all Uber services. The company's services have also been banned in New Delhi following the rape incident.

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