Amazon used a China firm on U.S. blacklist for thermal cameras to monitor workers for COVID-19 fever

Amazon's new Chinese thermal spycam vendor was blacklisted by U.S. over allegations it helped China detain and monitor Uighurs and other Muslim minorities

At Reuters, reporting by Krystal Hu and Jeffrey Dastin found that Amazon and Jeff Bezos went to a Chinese technology company on the United States' national security blacklist for its thermal camera needs — to monitor Amazon warehouse workers for fever, a sign of COVID-19.

Amazon is buying thermal cameras and other surveillance equipment from a variety of vendors, and one of them is Zhejiang Dahua Technology.

Dahua was blacklisted by U.S. over allegations it helped China detain and monitor Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, "three people familiar with the matter told Reuters."


China's Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co Ltd shipped 1,500 cameras to Amazon this month in a deal valued close to $10 million, one of the people said. At least 500 systems from Dahua – the blacklisted firm – are for Amazon's use in the United States, another person said.

The Amazon procurement, which has not been previously reported, is legal because the rules control U.S. government contract awards and exports to blacklisted firms, but they do not stop sales to the private sector.

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 (FLIR.O) 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."

Dahua is one of the world's largest surveillance camera manufacturers, and says it is committed "to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19" through technology that detects "abnormal elevated skin temperature — with high accuracy," it said in a statement.

Exclusive: Amazon turns to Chinese firm on U.S. blacklist to meet thermal camera needs