Amazon has said it will move to a Chinese firm on a US blacklist to meet demand for thermal cameras

Three people familiar with the matter told Reuters that the United States had bought cameras to monitor workers’ temperatures during the Amazon coronavirus epidemic, alleging that it had helped China detain and monitor Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

China’s Zhejiang Dahua Technology shipped 1,500 cameras to Amazon this month, valued at about $ 10 million. At least 500 systems from Dahua – a blacklisted company – for use by Amazon in the United States, another said.

Amazon purchases, which have not been previously reported, are valid because the rules regulate U.S. contract contracts and regulate exports to blacklisted entities, but they do not stop sales in the private sector.

However, the United States “considers that any transaction with a listed entity carries a ‘red flag’ and recommends that U.S. companies proceed with caution,” according to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s website. Dahua has debated the surname.

The agreement comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns of a shortage of temperature-reading devices and says it will not stop some epidemic use of thermal cameras without the agency’s regulatory approval. Top US-based manufacturer FLIR Systems has faced a week-long order backlog, forcing it to prioritize products for hospital and other critical benefits.

Amazon declined to confirm its purchase from Dahua, but said its hardware complied with national, state and local laws and its temperature test was “to support the health and safety of our employees, who continue to provide an important service to our communities.”

The company added that it was implementing thermal imagers from “multiple” manufacturers, which it declined to name. These vendors include infrared cameras, as previously reported by Reuters, and employees of FLIR, Amazon-owned Whole Foods, who have seen the installation. FLIR declined to comment on its clients.

Dahua, one of the world’s largest surveillance camera manufacturers, said it did not discuss customer engagement and that it complied with applicable law. Dahua is committed to “reducing the spread of Covid-19” through technology that “detects abnormally high skin temperatures – with high accuracy,” it said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, which maintains the blacklist, declined to comment. The FDA says it will use prudence when enforcing regulations during public health crises unless the lack of compliance poses a “unwanted risk” to thermal systems and ensures secondary assessment fever.

Dahuar thermal cameras have been used in hospitals, airports, train stations, government offices and factories during the epidemic. IBM placed an order for 100 units, and automaker Chrysler placed an order for 10 units, a source said. In addition to selling thermal technology, Dahua resells white-label security cameras under dozens of other brands, such as Honeywell, according to research and reporting firm IPVM.

Honeywell says some but not all of its cameras are made by Dahua and it captures products with cyber security and compliance standards. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the guardian of IBM and Chrysler, did not comment.

The Trump administration last year blacklisted Dahua and seven other technology companies for working against US foreign policy interests, saying they were involved in “China’s crackdown, arbitrary detention and high-tech surveillance against Uighurs and Kazakhs.” And other members of the Muslim minority. “

The United Nations estimates that more than a million people have been sent to camps in the Xinjiang region as part of China’s campaign to root out terrorism.

Dahua said the US decision “lacked a real basis.” Beijing has denied abusing minorities in Xinjiang and called on the United States to remove companies from the list.

A provision in U.S. law, due to take effect in August, will also prevent the federal government from initiating or renewing contracts with companies using “any equipment, systems or services” from companies, including Dahua, as a significant or essential component. Of any system. “

Amazon’s cloud unit is a major contractor with the US intelligence community, and it is fighting Microsoft over a $ 10 billion (approximately Rs 75,600 crore) deal with the Pentagon.

Top industry associations have called on Congress for a year-long delay because they say the law would dramatically reduce supplies to the government, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that policies clarifying the implementation of the law are imminent.

Face recognition and privacy
The coronavirus has infected workers from dozens of Amazon warehouses, sparked small protests over unsafe conditions and persuaded unions to demand closure of the site. Temperature testing helps keep Amazon afloat, and cameras – a fast, socially remote alternative to the forehead thermometer – can speed up lines to enter buildings. Amazon says the type of temperature reader it uses varies according to the building.

To see if someone has a fever, Dahuar’s camera compares a person’s radiation to a separate infrared calibration device. It uses face recognition technology to track walking objects and ensures that it is looking for heat in the right place.

According to a technology demonstration in San Francisco, an additional recording device captures snapshots of faces seen by the camera and their temperature. To determine if optional facial recognition software can bring pictures of the same subject over time, for example, a virus patient may be in line to have a temperature check with someone.

Amazon says it is not using facial recognition on any of its thermal cameras. Civil liberties groups have warned that the software could rob people of their privacy and could lead to arbitrary threats if relied upon by the police. U.S. authorities are also concerned that equipment makers such as Dahua could be hiding technical “back doors” for Chinese government agents’ intelligence.

In response to a question about the thermal system, Amazon said in a statement, “None of these devices have a network connection, and no personally identifiable information will be visible, collected or stored.”

Dahua decided to market its technology in the United States before the FDA issued guidelines on thermal cameras in epidemics. According to Evan Steiner, who sells surveillance equipment from various manufacturers in California through his firm Interactive Network, its supply is not discouraging many U.S. consumers from being blacklisted.

“You see a lot of companies are doing everything possible to prepare their workforce to return,” he said.

ম Thomson Reuters 2020

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