Amazon buying heat-sensing cameras from Chinese firm blacklisted by US

Amazon is reportedly buying heat-sensing cameras to monitor its workers’ temperatures during the coronavirus pandemic from a firm that has been blacklisted by the US for helping China detain and monitor the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

Under the deal with China’s Zhejiang Dahua Technology, Amazon is paying $10 million for 1,500 cameras, according to Reuters, which cited anonymous sources. At least 500 cameras from the blacklisted firm are for Amazon’s US use.

The Trump Administration added Dahua and seven other tech firms last year to the blacklist for acting against US foreign policy interests, saying they were “implicated” in “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

More than one million people have been sent to camps in the Xinjiang region as part of China’s campaign to root out terrorism, the United Nations has estimated.

Dahua has said the US decision lacked “any factual basis.” Beijing has denied mistreatment of minorities in Xinjiang and urged the United States to remove the companies from the list.

Amazon’s use of the tech is legal because private-sector companies are not bound by the rules that control US government contract awards.

However, the United States “considers that transactions of any nature with listed entities carry a ‘red flag’ and recommends that US companies proceed with caution,” according to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s website. Dahua has disputed the designation.

The deal comes as the Food and Drug Administration warned of a shortage of temperature-reading devices and said it wouldn’t halt certain pandemic uses of thermal cameras that lack the agency’s regulatory approval. Top US-based maker FLIR Systems has faced an up to weeks-long order backlog, forcing it to prioritize products for hospitals and other critical facilities.

Amazon declined to confirm its purchase from Dahua, but said its hardware complied with national, state and local law, and its temperature checks were to “support the health and safety of our employees, who continue to provide a critical service in our communities.”

The company added it was implementing thermal imagers from “multiple” manufacturers, which it declined to name. These vendors include Infrared Cameras Inc and FLIR, according to employees at Amazon-owned Whole Foods who saw the deployment. FLIR declined to comment on its customers.

Dahua’s thermal cameras have been used in hospitals, airports, train stations, government offices and factories during the pandemic. IBM placed an order for 100 units, and the automaker Chrysler placed an order for 10, one of the sources told Reuters.

In addition to selling thermal technology, Dahua makes white-label security cameras resold under dozens of other brands such as Honeywell, according to research and reporting firm IPVM.

With Post wires.

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