Former Google Engineer Charged with AI Technology Theft for China

A software engineer previously employed at Google and secretly working with two companies based in China was charged with stealing AI technology. Linwei Ding, a Chinese national, was arrested in Newark, California, on four counts of federal trade secret theft, each charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

According to Christopher Wray, FBI Director, “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. The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco previously announced that the administration’s multi-agency Disruptive Technology Strike Force prioritizes AI enforcement. Wray also commented to business leaders that AI and other emerging technologies make it easier for adversaries to try to interfere with the American political process.

The indictment against Ding was unsealed Wednesday in the Northern District of California. It alleges that he was hired by Google in 2019 and had access to confidential information about the company’s supercomputing data centers. Two years ago, he began uploading hundreds of files into a personal Google Cloud account.

Shortly thereafter, Ding was offered the position of CTO at an early-stage technology company in China using AI technology. Ding traveled to China, participated in investor meetings at the company, and tried to raise capital for it. He also founded and served as chief executive of a China-based startup company with the goal of training “large AI models powered by supercomputing chips,” the indictment said. Ding did not disclose either affiliation to Google.

He resigned from the company on Dec. 26. Three days later, Google officials learned he presented as CEO of one of the Chinese companies at an investor conference in Beijing. Officials also reviewed surveillance showing that another employee had scanned Ding’s access badge at the building where he worked to make it look like Ding was there during times when he was in China, the indictment says.

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