The program includes ride-hail drivers and delivery couriers, and will be administered by the corporate solutions firm HireRight. Uber said in a news release the process “prioritizes safety, privacy and fairness for both drivers and survivors.”
In statements both Tony West, Uber‘s chief legal officer, and Jennifer Brandenburger, head of policy development at Lyft, said that the new database should improve safety for riders.
Uber spokesperson Jodi Kawada Page said there is no requirement for either platform to act based on the information shared in the program, meaning a ban from one app won’t result in an automatic deactivation from another. But the companies see value in sharing the information with one another so they can make an informed decision.
In addition to fatal assaults, the companies said they would share information concerning the five most critical safety issues outlined in the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence Taxonomy.
Uber in 2019 released a comprehensive safety report that disclosed there had been 6,000 incidences of sexual offenses categorized as sexual assault on its app in the previous two years. The company at the time pledged to work with victims’ advocates to find a mechanism to support data-sharing, including with Lyft, so that offenders would not be able to jump to the other platform.
Lyft, too, pledged to release a safety report and find a data sharing mechanism. Though the data-sharing agreement was announced Thursday, the company still has not released its safety report.
“We’ve said from the beginning that this would be a complex process to put together since it requires a third-party administrator and alignment from different companies on standards and approach,” said Lyft spokeswoman Ashley Adams, explaining the yearlong development of the data-sharing agreement. “It was also important to us to take the time to develop a comprehensive process that prioritizes safety, privacy and fairness while incorporating learnings from sexual violence prevention experts and advocates.”
Adams also said Lyft would not release its safety report until a dispute between Uber and California regulators is fully resolved. The California Public Utilities Commission in December threatened to suspend Uber's license to operate over its refusal to hand over data concerning sexual assault on the platform.
“We believe the CPUC’s actions put survivors’ privacy at risk, and this issue needs to be resolved before we release our report,” Adams said.
Uber and Lyft have faced scrutiny from regulators and victims’ advocates over the prevalence of sexual misconduct on their apps, as well as the companies’ responses to the offenses. A 2019 Washington Post investigation of Uber’s Special Investigations Unit found that investigators were coached to put the company’s interests first, ahead of passenger safety. A separate Post story found that victims of sexual harassment on Lyft felt their concerns went unheard as the company neglected to seriously probe their complaints.
Uber at the time disputed the allegations by investigators, arguing the SIU was not meant to be a shield from legal liability but a specialized support apparatus for riders and drivers in serious situations. Lyft acknowledged it had fallen short in some instances and said it was always exploring how to improve the experience for users and its response to misconduct in particular.
The companies have also faced lawsuits from people who said they were raped or sexually assaulted on the apps.