Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft are teaming up to make sure creeps who have been kicked off their platforms stay off their platforms.
The two announced a partnership Thursday along with background screening firm HireRight to create a database on drivers who were deactivated for committing serious offenses, including physical and sexual assault, as part of their new Industry Sharing Safety Program. Passenger-safety concerns have dogged Uber and Lyft for years along with dozens of complaints and lawsuits claiming the companies failed to adequately screen drivers and ban those with multiple strikes for rulebreaking.
The program is initially rolling out in the U.S., and other ride-hailing and delivery services will be able to join in the data-sharing system moving forward so long as they agree to and abide by the same privacy safeguards as Uber and Lyft.
“You should be safe no matter what ridesharing platform you choose,” said Uber’s senior VP and chief legal officer Tony West in a press release. “Tackling these tough safety issues is bigger than any one of us and this new Industry Sharing Safety Program demonstrates the value of working collaboratively with experts, advocates and others to make a meaningful difference. We encourage more companies to join us.”
Drivers for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are largely considered independent contractors, not employees, meaning they can and often do drive for both companies.
A third-party, HireRight, will collect and manage all data shared between these companies and ensure all parties are abiding by industry standards outlined by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Per the Associated Press, information about the victims will not be shared in the database and the incidents that led to a driver’s dismissal are divided into six broad categories: attempted non-consensual sexual penetration; non-consensual touching of a sexual body part; non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part; non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part; non-consensual sexual penetration; and fatal physical assaults.
“We would share the basis of the deactivation, as well as identifying information about the driver just enough so that other companies can find that person on their platform, nothing else,” West said in an interview with NBC.
Incidents of sexual assault and harassment are notoriously underreported to police, which makes flagging dangerous drivers particularly important as they can slip under the radar with traditional background checks that often rely on legal records. The nonprofit victims’ rights group the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, which previously criticized Uber and Lyft for a lack of rigorous driver screening processes, commended the companies for coming together in the name of passenger safety.
“Sexual violence thrives in secrecy,” said Scott Berkowitz, the group’s president and founder, in the press release. “Thanks to this initiative, perpetrators will no longer be able to hide or escape accountability by simply switching ridesharing platforms.”
Uber and Lyft have both rolled out a bevy of safety features in the last few years, including in-app panic buttons and additional ways for passengers to verify their drivers. But critics argue these precautions are long overdue. In 2018, CNN found that 103 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers had been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the past four years. In the company’s first-ever safety report, Uber disclosed that it received 3,045 reports of sexual assaults during trips in 2018. In that same year, nine people were murdered and 58 killed in auto-related crashes. Lyft has also racked up multiple lawsuits from women over its handling of sexual assault complaints and allegations that it didn’t do enough to shield passengers from dangerous drivers.