Amazon reportedly bought Thermal Cameras made by Blacklisted Chinese company

Amidst growing concerns from many workers over the Coronavirus pandemic, Amazon had to employ various precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its employees. For this, the e-retailing giant started providing face masks and conduct regular temperature checks through thermal cameras. However, it seems that Amazon has bought cameras from a Chinese company that was previously blacklisted by the US government.

According to a Reuters report, Amazon has spent about 10 million US Dollars for 1,500 thermal cameras. Although, it seems that the company Amazon has bought them from was previously implicated to be involved with China’s efforts to detain and harass Uighurs and Muslim minorities. The Chinese company, Zhejiang Dahua Technology, has declined any such allegation but it was one of the 28 companies that had faced the trade ban from the US Commerce Department back in October 2019.

Zhejiang Dahua Technology was placed on the “Entity List” similar to Huawei. For those unaware, it is essentially the blacklisting of a company that is deemed to be a threat to the US. These companies face pressure from the US and have their operations hindered as they cannot buy or sell products/services to American based companies.

Apparently, the purchase from Amazon is legal since the “rules control the US Government contract awards and exports to blacklisted firms.” However, they do not stop sales to the private sector. Furthermore, Amazon did not confirm the purchase, rather, it was using thermal cameras from “multiple’ sources and not limited to just Dahua. This includes Infrared Cameras Inc and Flir, with about 500 cameras being used in the US. Interestingly, the Dahua made cameras are capable of facial recognition to match temperature data later on, but Amazon insists on not using this technology in their cameras.

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

The deal comes as the U.S. 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 U.S.-based maker FLIR Systems Inc 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, which Reuters previously reported, and FLIR, according to employees at Amazon-owned Whole Foods who saw the deployment. FLIR declined to comment on its customers.

Senator Marco Rubio, a critic of China’s policies in the country’s Xinjiang region, where Uighers and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps, said Dahua equipment represented a “massive security risk” to companies and the United States.

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.

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