HomeTop StoriesThe US accuses Chinese nationals of stealing AI trade secrets from Google

The US accuses Chinese nationals of stealing AI trade secrets from Google

Washington — A former Google software engineer who worked on artificial intelligence is accused of stealing more than 500 files containing proprietary information about the tech giant’s supercomputing infrastructure, according to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in San Francisco.

Linwei Ding, a Chinese national living in Newark, California, was arrested Wednesday and charged with four counts of stealing trade secrets. Federal prosecutors alleged he transferred Google’s classified information to a personal account to benefit tech companies in China.

Court records showed that the suspect began working for Google in 2019, focusing on software development for machine learning and AI programs. Beginning in May 2022, prosecutors said, he spent a year slowly stripping the tech giant of its proprietary data.

According to the charging documents, in June 2022, Ding received emails from the CEO of a technology company based in Beijing offering him more than $14,000 per month to serve as an executive focused on machine learning and AI training models. The following year, prosecutors said Ding started his own company and presented his technology company to investors at a venture capital conference in Beijing.

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A marketing document that Ding reportedly passed on to investors at the meeting touted his “experience with Google’s … platform.”

“We just need to replicate and upgrade it, and then further develop a computing power platform suitable for China’s national situation,” the prosecutors said.

Investigators said he continued to receive information from Google until December 2023, when company officials first got wind of his activities. Weeks later, Ding resigned and booked a flight to Beijing. He eventually returned to Newark, where he was arrested Wednesday morning after a months-long FBI investigation. It was not immediately clear whether Ding had an attorney.

“We have strict safeguards in place to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets. After investigation, we discovered that this employee had stolen numerous documents and we quickly referred the matter to law enforcement,” said José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson . said in a statement. “We are grateful to the FBI for their assistance in protecting our information and will continue to work closely with them.”

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“The Department of Justice simply will not tolerate the theft of trade secrets,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday at an event in San Francisco, echoing the sentiments of national security officials who raised alarms about the theft of U.S. technology by foreign adversaries.

The charges against Ding are the first since the Justice Department said it was prioritizing artificial intelligence technology in its efforts to counter these threats. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said last month that protecting AI is “at the very top” of law enforcement’s priority list, noting that it is “the ultimate disruptive technology.”

Jo Ling Kent contributed to the reporting.

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