A former Google engineer from the Bay Area has been accused of stealing artificial intelligence trade secrets while collaborating with Chinese companies

A former Google software engineer has been accused by the Justice Department of stealing artificial intelligence trade secrets from the company while working secretly with two Chinese companies. The engineer, Linwei Ding, a Chinese national, was arrested in Newark, California, on four counts of federal trade secret theft, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The charges against Ding, 38, were announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland at an American Bar Association conference in San Francisco. Garland, along with other law enforcement leaders, has frequently warned about the dangers of Chinese economic espionage and the national security risks posed by advancements in artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

FBI Director Christopher Wray stated, “Today’s charges are the latest illustration of the lengths affiliates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China are willing to go to steal American innovation. The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences.”

Google confirmed that the employee had stolen “numerous documents” and had reported the matter to law enforcement. Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said, “We have strict safeguards to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets. After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement. We are grateful to the FBI for helping protect our information and will continue cooperating with them closely.”

Ding’s defense attorney listed in court records did not provide a comment on the matter.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become the primary arena for competition among high-tech companies, with significant commercial and security implications. Recent weeks have seen Justice Department leaders raise concerns about how foreign adversaries could exploit AI technologies to harm the United States.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced last month that the administration’s Disruptive Technology Strike Force would prioritize AI in its enforcement efforts. FBI Director Christopher Wray also warned at a conference last week that AI and other emerging technologies have made it easier for adversaries to interfere with American political processes.

Attorney General Merrick Garland echoed these concerns at an event in San Francisco, stating that “As with all evolving technologies, (AI) has pluses and minuses, advantages and disadvantages, great promise and the risk of great harm.”

The indictment unsealed in the Northern District of California alleges that Linwei Ding, a former Google employee hired in 2019 with access to confidential information about the company’s supercomputing data centers, began uploading hundreds of files to a personal Google Cloud account two years ago.

Shortly after the theft began, prosecutors say, Ding was offered the position of chief technology officer at a Chinese technology company focused on AI, with a substantial salary and benefits. The indictment also states that Ding founded and led a China-based startup aiming to train “large AI models powered by supercomputing chips.”

Ding did not disclose these affiliations to Google, which described him as a junior employee. He resigned from Google on December 26.

After discovering Ding’s unauthorized uploads and his activities in China, Google suspended his network access and seized his laptop. The FBI later executed search warrants at Ding’s home, seizing electronic devices and accessing his personal accounts containing more than 500 unique files of confidential information allegedly stolen from Google.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.