A regional journalism organization recognized freelance investigative reporter Seth Rosenfeld with a freedom-of-information award this week for his Public Press series exposing secrecy and lax state regulation of the burgeoning ride-hailing industry. Rosenfeld spent five months in late 2019 and early 2020 digging into the cozy relationship between the California Public Utilities Commission and the companies it purportedly regulated, Uber and Lyft. In “Ride-Hailing’s Dark Data,” launched online in January 2020 and as a print edition cover story, Rosenfeld found that for six years the commission withheld from public view annual safety reports detailing the industry’s troubling record of crashes and injuries, with sometimes deadly consequences.
Ride-Hailing’s Dark Data
A months-long investigation by the San Francisco Public Press revealed that the California Public Utilities Commission — the agency charged with regulating the state’s ride-hailing firms — has kept reports on thousands of accidents involving Uber and Lyft under wraps.
In scores of court cases, meanwhile, the companies have successfully kept evidence about collisions allegedly caused by their drivers secret.
As a result, the public, and even local government officials, have been kept in the dark about the massive industry’s road safety record.
In the wake of Seth Rosenfeld’s reporting, politicians have called for more transparency and the commission has proposed repealing a shadowy confidentiality clause.