Home Wired Google, a former employee has been accused of stealing AI technology for Chinese companies

Google, a former employee has been accused of stealing AI technology for Chinese companies

by Andrew

A former Google employee, Linwei Ding, has been accused of illegally stealing artificial intelligence technology from Google and secretly partnering with two Chinese companies active in this area.

According to the Associated Press, the 38-year-old of Chinese descent was arrested in Newark, California, on four counts related to the theft of federal trade secrets, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.

“Today’s allegations are the latest example of how far affiliates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China are willing to go to steal American innovation,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

Linwei Ding, also known as Leon Ding, was hired by Google in 2019. As part of his responsibilities, Ding helped develop the software used in Google’s supercomputing data centers. Through this work, Ding “had access to Google’s hardware infrastructure, software platform, and AI models and applications.”

Ding was accused of copying more than 500 files with confidential information from Google into his personal account over the course of a year, starting in 2022. A few months after he started copying Google files, he was reportedly offered the role of chief technology officer at an “early-stage technology company” based in China.

Ding then traveled to China for several months, also participating in various meetings to raise funds for his startup, telling potential investors that he was an executive and owned 20% of the shares. During his absences, the man also allegedly gave his badge to another employee to make it appear that he was in the United States.

The following year, Ding would set up his own technology company in China active in the “artificial intelligence and machine learning sector” while also boasting that he had “experience with Google’s computational power platform”: “we just need to replicate and upgrade it, then further develop a computational power platform suitable for China’s national conditions.”

Google immediately launched a thorough investigation into Ding’s conduct and quickly referred the case to the FBI:

“After an investigation, we discovered that this employee had stolen numerous documents and quickly reported the case to law enforcement. We are grateful to the FBI for helping to protect our information and will continue to work closely with them.”

Google spokesman José Castañeda also added that the company has “strict safeguards” in place to prevent the theft of its confidential business information and business secrets.

Merrick Garland, the attorney general, said the Justice Department “will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies” that could put national security at risk.

“We will strenuously protect sensitive technologies developed in America from falling into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”

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