Former Google Engineer Charged with Stealing AI Trade Secrets for Chinese Firms

Former Google Engineer Charged with Stealing AI Trade Secrets for Chinese Firms | Enterprise Wired

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Indictment and Arrest of Linwei Ding

Linwei Ding, a former software engineer at Google, is facing serious charges in the United States for allegedly stealing trade secrets related to artificial intelligence (AI) while clandestinely collaborating with two Chinese companies. The US authorities have indicted Ding on four charges, and he was apprehended on Wednesday. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and face fines of $250,000 for each count.

Allegations of Trade Secret Theft

The charges against Ding stem from his purported theft of more than 500 confidential files, specifically related to the infrastructure of Google’s supercomputing data centers, crucial for hosting and training large AI models. According to the indictment, Ding joined Google in 2019, where he was responsible for developing this software. Allegedly, starting in May 2022, he began uploading Google’s network information to a personal Google account, continuing this unauthorized activity for about a year.

Covert Work for Chinese Companies

Simultaneously, Ding is accused of spending several months working in China for Beijing Rongshu Lianzhi Technology, receiving a substantial monthly payment of $14,800 to serve as the Chief Technology Officer. He is also alleged to have established his own tech company, Shanghai Zhisuan Technology, focusing on AI and machine learning, where he positioned himself as the CEO. Prosecutors claim that Ding never informed Google about his dual employment.

Ex-Google engineer charged with stealing AI Trade secrets for China

Deceptive Actions and Investigation

Ding’s alleged deceptions extended to him applying to a China-based organization to develop his business, presenting it at an investor conference in November 2023. After returning to the US, he booked a one-way ticket to Beijing and resigned from Google in late December. Google became suspicious when it learned about his activities at the conference and subsequently suspended his access. An investigation revealed unauthorized file uploads, prompting further action from Google.

US Authorities Vow to Protect AI Technology

US Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized that Ding’s actions were an attempt to enrich himself by covertly aiding companies striving for an advantage in the AI technology race. Garland asserted that the Justice Department would not tolerate the theft of advanced technologies that could jeopardize national security. FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted Ding’s case as another example of China’s persistent efforts to pilfer American innovation. The charges against Ding underscore the ongoing tension between the US and China, particularly in the realm of technological competition.

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