Former Google Employee Charged with Stealing Trade Secrets Related to Advanced AI Technology

Emma Grant

A former software worker at Google has been charged with stealing closely guarded trade secrets about the company’s cutting edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday. [Source]

Linwei Ding, 38, a Chinese citizen who lives in Newark, California, was taken Thursday morning. A federal grand jury charged him with four counts of stealing trade secrets. Attorneys for the prosecution say Ding copied over 500 secret files that contained Google’s own AI technology while working quietly for and with two competing AI companies in China.

“The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences,” stated FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI will continue its efforts to vigorously pursue those responsible for stealing U.S. companies’ intellectual property and most closely guarded secrets.”

The accusation says that the stolen technology is related to the systems that run Google’s advanced data centers, which are used for machine learning and running big AI models. This includes both the complicated software platform that controls and improves the hardware infrastructure as well as the unique hardware, such as AI chips.

Authorities say Ding started putting Google’s trade secrets on a personal cloud account in May 2022 and kept doing it on and off until May 2023. It is said that during that time, he worked with and helped raise money for two competing AI startups in China. He started and ran one of them as CEO.

“We will fiercely protect sensitive technologies made in the United States from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

If found guilty, Ding could spend up to 10 years in jail and pay fines of $250,000 for each count. The case is part of the new Disruptive Technology Strike Force program, which is meant to stop unfriendly countries from threatening important U.S. technologies.

A Google spokesperson said that the company has “strict workplace policies designed to protect confidential business information” and that they don’t put up with “insiders who violate our policies and put confidential information at risk.”

China and the US are competing to be the world leader in AI technology, which is causing more and more conflicts. The arrest shows how serious the situation is.

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