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Uber, Lyft team up on database to expose abusive drivers

ap photo In this Feb. 9 file photo, a passer-by walks past a sign offering directions to an Uber and Lyft ride pickup location at Logan International Airport, in Boston.

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Uber and Lyft have teamed up to create a database of drivers ousted from their ride-hailing services for complaints about sexual assault and other crimes that have raised passenger-safety concerns for years.

The clearinghouse unveiled Thursday will initially list drivers expelled by the ride-hailing rivals in the U.S. But it will also be open to other companies that deploy workers to perform services such as delivering groceries or take-out orders from restaurants

The new safeguard, dubbed the “sharing safety program,” will be overseen by HireRight, a specialist in background checks. The use of a third party is aimed at addressing potential legal concerns about companies, including competitors such as Uber and Lyft, having access to information to each other’s personnel matters.

“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,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, told The Associated Press. He spoke in an interview that also included Jennifer Brandenburger, Lyft’s head of policy development.

The safety program follows through on a promise that Uber made 15 months ago when it revealed that more than 3,000 sexual assaults had been reported on its service in the U.S. during 2018.

Since that revelation, San Francisco-based Uber and Lyft have been working to navigate through antitrust and privacy concerns to create a way to flag drivers who have engaged in violent or other abhorrent behavior that culminated in them being booted off their services.

Sharing the information about reported sexual assaults is considered especially important because victims of such crimes frequently don’t file formal complaints with police. That gap has opened a crack for potentially dangerous drivers to slip through routine background checks drawing upon legal records, Brandenburger said.

To protect privacy, no passenger information will be shared in the database and the incidents that resulted in a driver’s dismissal will be listed in 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.

Only “fraction of a fraction” of drivers have engaged in behavior that fall into those categories, West said. Any company with access to the clearinghouse of information could still decide to allow a driver on its service after its own investigation, West said.

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