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Uber, Lyft push back against fingerprint-based background checks

Ridesharing services Uber and Lyft are pushing back against fingerprint-based background checks for drivers.

Under state legislation approved in 2015, the companies must begin background checking drivers on Dec. 15 with the FBI and state fingerprint-based databases that the state uses to background taxi drivers — unless they can prove their own approach is equally effective.

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The two companies have filed separate petitions with the Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates ridesharing and taxi companies, for permission to continue doing background checks their way.

Both work with private background companies to run names, Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers and other personal details provided by applicants through crime databases, sex offender registries and Social Security records. The process involves in-person trips to courthouses to double-check records.

In petition documents filed with the commission, Uber and Lyft said they think their background check processes are more thorough than using databases that rely on fingerprints.

Maryland in 2015 passed legislation that set up a system for regulating ridesharing companies, which were growing in popularity but lacked the same strict oversight as taxi companies.

Under both state law and the companies' policies, people who have a criminal record are not allowed to work as drivers.

While the law mandates rigorous background checks for drivers, it allows companies to conduct background checks their own way if state officials deem their approach sufficient. The law gives the public service commission the authority to make that decision.

The commission will hold an evidentiary hearing on Nov. 17 on the issue.

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