The New York Civil Liberties Union has serious concerns about a bill that would provide for the regulation and expansion of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to upstate New York. The companies are currently only able to operate in New York City. The legislation is among a package of bills to be considered should the legislature return for a special session next week.

“This legislation does not do nearly enough to prevent discrimination, it lacks adequate privacy protections for passengers and drivers and it could unfairly punish would-be drivers who have not been convicted of any crime,” said NYCLU Legislative Counsel, Rashida Richardson.

The NYCLU identified three areas where the bill should be strengthened:

Inadequate Non-Discrimination Provision
The bill directs Transportation Network Companies (“TNC”) to develop non-discrimination and accessibility policies regarding persons’ ability to utilize ridesourcing services. However, this directive is insufficient; it fails to provide clear and enforceable standards. TNC’s are subject to the non-discrimination provisions that govern access to public accommodations under the New York State Human Rights Law, and under local human rights laws. However, lawmakers must ensure that TNC’s develop policies, practices and procedures that will prevent discrimination, and that will hold ridesourcing companies accountable under the law. It is not sufficient to rely on Transportation Network Companies to develop these policies and practices in the absence of standards clearly stated in the law. Some TNC’s currently have non-discrimination policies that are drafted in a manner that all but ensures non-compliance. This bill, as drafted, will only encourage this practice.

Privacy Concern
TNC’s collect vast amounts of information regarding customers and drivers. There have been numerous reports of customer privacy violations, which demonstrate the need for accountability and oversight regarding data collection and retention by TNCs. This legislation fails to provide adequate oversight and privacy protections for TNC passengers and drivers; what’s more, the bill includes a data retention policy that creates a likelihood of security breaches regarding information about passengers and drivers. The bill would require that TNCs maintain for at least six years the records of each customer’s travel, as well as drivers’ individual travel records. By comparison, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission requires that trip records are retained for no more than a year. The bill also fails to address the potential use, or abuse, of ridesourcing technologies to engage in unwarranted surveillance of individuals who engage the services of a TNC.

Collateral Consequences of Background Checks
The legislation allows TNCs to conduct criminal background checks through state, federal and commercial databases, and to request that drivers submit fingerprints for purposes of conducting a criminal history background check through the New York State Division of Criminal Justice. The bill also authorizes the division of criminal justice services to notify the TNC whenever a driver is arrested. Arrests are not convictions and should not be used prejudicially against applicants seeking employment with TNCs; a criminal record should not be the sole basis for denying a job opportunity. These provisions would deny employment opportunities in communities with the highest unemployment rates, whose residents are disproportionately immigrants and persons of color. It is these same communities that are often subject to overly aggressive policing and prosecution. New York should not create barriers to employment in the emerging ride-sourcing industry, particularly when there are better legislative models for identifying actual employment risks.