Dahua biometrics controversy draws scrutiny of Amazon’s $10M thermal cameras purchase
The fallout of the recent revelation that Dahua developed biometrics specifically to identify Uyghurs for Chinese authorities has begun, with U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez demanding Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explain the nature of his company’s relationship with the facial recognition provider.
Amazon purchased $10 million worth of thermal cameras with support for face biometrics from Dahua in 2019, which was revealed in April, six months after it was added to the U.S. Entity List to restrict its market access as a consequence for involvement in repressive state practices against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
The Senators note that purchasing equipment from Dahua is not illegal, but argue that: “If these allegations against Dahua are true, it would mean that Amazon willfully ignored guidance from the United States government and purchased equipment from an entity-listed company that is complicit in China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs.”
Dahua has acknowledged the veracity of at least some of the allegations, IPVM reports, admitting that the feature was sold in regions other than Xinjiang. The publication writes that “Dahua has been caught lying repeatedly about its human rights violations.” Whether that means Amazon wilfully ignored government guidance, as the Senators suggest, is less clear.
Rubio is Co-chair of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee, which overseas human rights efforts. He has shown a consistent interest in limiting the involvement of U.S. and allied involvement in Xinjiang. Menendez is chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.