Chinese National Charged with Stealing Trade Secrets About Google’s AI Technology

by State Brief

A Chinese national living in California has been charged with stealing trade secrets related to Google’s artificial intelligence technology while working for two Chinese technology companies.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that Linwei Ding, aka Leon Ding, 38, had been charged by a grand jury with four counts of theft of trade secrets.

The DOJ said in a press release that Ding “transferred sensitive Google trade secrets and other confidential information from Google’s network to his personal account while secretly affiliating himself with PRC-based companies in the AI industry. Ding was arrested earlier this morning in Newark.”

Google hired Ding as a software engineer in 2019. His job was to develop software for the tech giant’s supercomputing data centers.

“In connection with his employment, Ding was granted access to Goggle’s confidential information related to the hardware infrastructure, the software platform, and the AI models and applications they supported,” the press release said. “The indictment alleges that on May 21, 2022, Ding began secretly uploading trade secrets that were stored in Google’s network by copying the information into a personal Google Cloud account. According to the indictment, Ding continued periodic uploads until May 2, 2023, by which time Ding allegedly uploaded more than 500 unique files containing confidential information.”

The press release continued, “According to court documents, the technology Ding allegedly stole involves the building blocks of Google’s advanced supercomputing data centers, which are designed to support machine learning workloads used to train and host large AI models.”

“The Justice Department will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that could put our national security at risk,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland while speaking at the American Bar Association’s 39th National Institute on White Collar Crime in San Francisco. “In this case, we allege the defendant stole artificial intelligence-related trade secrets from Google while secretly working for two companies based in China. We will fiercely protect sensitive technologies developed in America from falling into the hands of those who should not have them.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement, “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.”

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

If convicted, Ding faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each of the four counts.

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