Coronavirus: Amazon Uses Blacklisted Chinese Firm For Thermal Cameras

Amazon’s efforts to safeguard its workforce during the Coronavirus pandemic has hit a potential bump in the road, after it was reported that it is using technology from a blacklisted Chinese firm.

The firm in question is Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co Ltd, which has been blacklisted by US authorities over allegations it helped the Chinese government detain and monitor the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Last week hundreds of Amazon staff in the United States reportedly called in ‘sick’ over protests that Amazon allegedly failed to provide adequate safety measures and has refused paid sick leave.

Image credit: Amazon

Thermal camera

Amazon at the start of April began instituting anti-pandemic measures including taking the temperature of staff upon their arrival at work and spraying disinfectant.

It also revealed it was building its own coronavirus testing facility in order to monitor the health of its staff.

More than 130 Amazon-owned facilities in the US have reportedly confirmed cases of Covid-19, with some locations including multiple affected individuals.

That led to protests by some staff, and matters were not helped when the firm fired staff members who criticised cleaning in its warehouses that have reported cases of Covid-19.

Five US senators wrote to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos demanding more information on the firing of Christian Smalls.

Smalls had alleged that Amazon had not properly cleansed the warehouse after an employee was struck down with Covid-19.

But now according to Reuters, Zhejiang Dahua Technology has shipped 1,500 cameras to Amazon this month in a deal valued close to $10 million. Reuters reported that at least 500 systems from Dahua are for Amazon’s use in the United States.

Legal purchase

The Amazon procurement is reportedly legal because the rules control US government contract awards and exports to blacklisted firms, but they do not prevent sales to the private sector.

That said, 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, Reuters reported.

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.”

Amazon also said it was implementing thermal imagers from “multiple” manufacturers, which it declined to name. However it seems that Amazon has also sourced thermal cameras from Infrared Cameras Inc and FLIR.

Amazon has assured that its thermal cameras doesn’t have network connectivity, and no personal identifiable information will be visible, collected, or stored.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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