Ex-Google Engineer Accused of Stealing AI Trade Secrets, Aiding Chinese Companies

The Justice Department has charged Linwei Ding, a former software engineer at Google, with stealing artificial intelligence trade secrets from the company while clandestinely collaborating with two Chinese-based companies. Ding, a Chinese national, was arrested in Newark, California, and faces four counts of federal trade secret theft, with each count punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The case against Ding was announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland at an American Bar Association conference in San Francisco, underscoring the ongoing concern about Chinese economic espionage and national security threats posed by advancements in artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

According to the allegations, Ding, 38, began uploading hundreds of files into a personal Google Cloud account two years ago, despite having access to confidential information about the company’s supercomputing data centers. He was subsequently offered the position of chief technology officer at a Chinese technology company and founded his own startup in China, both focused on AI technology.

Google discovered Ding’s unauthorized uploads and referred the matter to law enforcement after conducting an investigation. The FBI later seized Ding’s electronic devices and found over 500 unique files of confidential information allegedly stolen from Google.

The indictment against Ding highlights the high stakes in the AI technology arena, with Justice Department officials emphasizing the potential economic and security implications of foreign adversaries harnessing AI technologies.

Ding’s actions, as described in the indictment, illustrate the risks associated with insider threats and the need for robust safeguards to protect intellectual property and trade secrets. The case also underscores the broader challenge of addressing the growing threats posed by economic espionage and technology theft in an increasingly interconnected world.

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