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Uber, Lyft Introduce Program To Share Information About Drivers Accused Of Abusive Behavior
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Uber and Lyft introduced a new partnership on Thursday, announcing that the two competing ride-share service companies will be working in conjunction with a third party in order to share information with each other about drivers who have been ousted from their services over accusations of sexual assault and other crimes. The move is reportedly an attempt to prevent banned drivers from switching to another company once they have been deactivated from one.

The two companies will work together to create a database that will begin by listing information about drivers who have been kicked out of the services in the United States. However, the platform will also reportedly be available to other companies that utilize workers in similar ways, like services that hire people to deliver groceries or food from take-out places.

The “sharing safety program” will be supervised by HireRight, which is a background checking service. The companies are incorporating a third party group in order to avoid legal issues over competing companies being able to see private data.

“Deactivation data sharing is not a new concept — we do this already in certain jurisdictions like Chicago where there’s a regulatory framework that allows us to share this information,” said Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer.

He added that “one of the difficult hurdles we had to work through was how do we share this information in a way that respects the various privacy laws that exist in many different states; that address the various antitrust laws that exist in various states; how do you do this in a way that is legally compliant and that is appropriate.”

In 2018, there were over 3,000 sexual assaults reported on Uber’s service. When the company divulged this information, it promised to provide safety reports every two years. In its report, Uber said it was “committed to finding a way to share the names of drivers who have been banned from our platform for the most serious safety incidents with our ridesharing peers.”

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted about the report at the time, saying, “I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common. Some people will appreciate how much we’ve done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right.”

The company has faced criticism from those who thought they had not done enough to promote safety for the people using the service. Thursday’s announcement brought praise from some who had been critical in the past, including the victims’ rights group, Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. The network’s president, Scott Berkowitz said, “Sexual violence thrives in secrecy … Thanks to this initiative, perpetrators will no longer be able to hide or escape accountability by simply switching ridesharing platforms.”

It is not clear whether or not the allegations and accusations made against drivers must be established in court in order for the drivers to be blacklisted on the database. While drivers undergo yearly background checks, as well as ongoing monitoring, it seems as if the database will be able to serve as an added level of checks for crimes that are not reported to law enforcement.

Jennifer Brandenburger, Lyft’s head of policy development, discussed sexual assault offenses, saying, “Even when these crimes are reported, they are much less likely than others to result in an arrest and charges and very unlikely to result in a conviction … As a result, these types of crimes are just less likely to show up on the screenings both companies already do.”

Brandenburger added, “That said, when survivors report these types of incidents, what we hear often is that while they may not feel comfortable going to the police, they do want to make sure what happened to them doesn’t happen to anyone else. That’s where we believe we can play a role.”

The companies plan to protect the information of users and victims for now, consistent with Uber’s actions in the past when it refused to provide California’s Public Utilities Commission with contact information of victims after its 2019 report was released. When Uber refused to hand over the information, the group fined Uber $59 million and the issue is now in the appeals stage, according to the Associated Press.

AP reports that “no passenger information will be shared in the database.” The different circumstances that caused a driver to be dismissed will include six general categories, such as “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.”

The database currently only includes drivers who have been deactivated, not riders. However, West said, “I can see why adopting this for riders would also be desirable. I would say, this is a first step.”

West told the Associated Press, “Lyft and Uber are competitors in a whole lot of ways, but on this issue of safety, we completely agree that folks should be safe no matter what platform they choose.”

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