Dahua 'Smart Police Heart Of City' real-time Uyghur warnings

Occurred: February 2021

Can you improve this page?
Share your insights with us

Facial recognition software developed by state-owned Chinese video surveillance technology company Dahua provides 'real-time warning for Uyghurs' to the Chinese police, according to video research company IPVM.

Per the Los Angeles Times, documents on a Dahua support website reveal a law enforcement user guide dated December 2019 show Dahua’s 'Smart Police Heart Of City' (HOC) system can send a warning when it detects someone it identifies as Uyghur. And a consumer-facing product called SmartPSS offers a feature to sort by race individuals who pass in front of its cameras.

Dahua responded (pdf) by saying the documents referenced by IPVM and the Los Angeles Times were 'historical internal software design documents' and that it 'does not provide products and services for ethnicity detection' in the 'regional markets reported by the media.'

Dahua denied selling 'ethnicity-focused recognition' products in a November 2020 statement to the South China Morning Post after cybersecurity researchers had found code with an ethnic designation for Uyghurs. The company then deleted and updated the code on its website.

Amazon thermal cameras contract

In April 2020, Reuters reported that Amazon had bought 1,500 thermal cameras from Dahua in a deal valued at close to USD 10 million. The cameras were intended to take the temperatures of workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

A day after the Los Angeles Times article was published, US senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez sent a letter (pdf) to then Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos asking whether Amazon knew Dahua was on the entity list when it was considering entering into a contract with the company and whether that came up in its deliberations.

Dahua is blacklisted by the US Commerce Department over allegations it helped Beijing detain and monitor Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. The arrangement with Amazon is legal because the rules apply to the public sector, rather than the private sector. 

However, the deal '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, according (pdf) to Rubio and Menendez. 

Operator: Amazon; Modesto City Schools
Developer: Zhejiang Dahua Technology; China Electronics Technology Group/Hikvision
Country: China
Sector: Govt - police; Govt - security
Purpose: Identify & track Uyghurs
Technology: CCTV; Facial recognition; Computer vision; Neural network; Machine learning
Issue: Surveillance; Privacy; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing


Legal, regulatory

Research, advocacy

Investigations, assessments, audits

News, commentary, analysis