HomeAsian AmericansEx-Google engineer charged with stealing AI secrets for Chinese companies

Ex-Google engineer charged with stealing AI secrets for Chinese companies

Authorities charged former Google software engineer, Linwei Ding, with trading artificial intelligence secrets with two Chinese companies on Wednesday.

According to NBC News, Ding was indicted and arrested in Newark, California, on four counts of federal trade secret theft. If proven guilty, the Chinese National could face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each count.

Ding allegedly stole up to 500 confidential documents while working at Google. All of the documents contained information on Google’s infrastructure for supercomputing data centers, BBC reported. These data centers are essential for companies that develop AI.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the indictment at the American Bar Association conference in San Francisco. Garland has previously and perpetually expressed concern over security concerns in relation to artificial intelligence.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that could put our national security at risk,” Garland said per BBC.

Google hired Ding in 2019 to develop software. Having access to confidential files, he began to upload them into his personal Google account.

Meanwhile, he began working for two other companies, NBC News reported.

The first company was a new AI tech startup that offered him a $14,800, salary, bonuses, and company stock. As their chief technology officer, he would frequently fly to China and participate in investor meetings. Surveillance footage revealed that another Google employee would scan Ding’s badge into buildings whenever he was in China, making it appear as if he was present.

The second company was his own China-based company, which he was the chief executive of. In the indictment, it said that his startup strived to program “large AI models powered by supercomputing chips.”

While he was working at Google, the company did not know his two other jobs.

On Dec. 26 of last year, Ding resigned from Google.

Three days later, Google learned that during one of Ding’s China trips he attended an investor conference in Beijing. At the conference, Ding presented as the CEO of a Chinese company.

Google became suspicious and suspended Ding’s network access. Upon suspension, they searched his history and found hundreds of unauthorized uploads.

In January, the FBI had a warrant to search Ding’s house. They seized all of his electronic devices and found his personal account full of Google’s confidential files, officials allege.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said, per NBC News, “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.” He continues, “The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences.”

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