Austin controversies

The sad message in the Uber app this morning, and the problem with fingerprinting

May 9, 2016

We’re sure we’re not the only person to have tried the Uber app this morning…


The question that remains unanswered in the post mortem: How far apart are the Austin city council and the ridesharing companies? Positions seem to have hardened in the political fight leading up to the vote against Proposition 1.

The question comes up, why do the ridesharing companies resist fingerprinting so much? In Texas, in what seems to be a very un-Texan attitude, you need to be fingerprinted for virtually any government permission, including, until very recently, to get a driver’s license. Many of the locals your Editor engages in his neighborhood coffee shop therefore do not understand the resistance.

The answer is that fingerprinting is a huge pain in the neck in many other states. In New Jersey, for example. Your Editor has the experience of driving 15 miles through local Trenton area traffic to a particular office of the state police, and then waiting around for a particular copper charged with the finger printing of corporate executives and other miscreants who need certified fingerprints to cough up to regulatory agencies in, say, Florida. If the Austin rules were imposed in Newark, far fewer people would get their act sufficiently together to qualify. So in many places, fingerprinting is a real barrier to entry with no obvious security benefit.

And never mind that Texans who love freedom should be calling for less fingerprinting in general, rather than more, if for no other reason than we ought not feed the data hungry security state more than absolutely necessary.

But we digress. Given the foregoing, what are the odds that Uber and Lyft can agree to fingerprinting in Austin without opening up similar fights in cities across the country? We speculate that they are unlikely to concede the point, and we further speculate that this city council is unlikely to give up its hard won victory. We therefore doubt that Uber and Lyft will be back in Austin soon, which will be a great loss for both customers and drivers, even if a windfall for the opponents of “corporate greed” and their allies, the three authorized taxi corporations and their tightly rationed number of cars.

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1 Comment

  • Reply John L. McCormack May 9, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I can easily imagine the motivations of the sleaze bags on the Austin city council. But what were the voters thinking? The Texas Monthly and local papers seemed to have it right. What people were impressed with the council’s argument? UT faculty? Undergraduates? State employees?

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