A former Google engineer was arrested for allegedly stealing AI secrets for Chinese rivals

A former Google engineer was arrested in California on Wednesday for allegedly stealing more than 500 files containing artificial intelligence trade secrets from the company and using the information to benefit rival tech companies in China.

one indictment Unsealed in California federal court, prosecutors accused Linwei Ding, a 38-year-old Chinese national who started working at Google in 2019, of uploading trade secrets to personal cloud storage accounts from a Google-issued laptop. According to the indictment, the documents Ding stole were related to the “building blocks” of Google’s artificial intelligence infrastructure. He uploaded them to his personal account for one year from May 2022 to May 2023.

Ding was arrested in Newark, California and charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 per charge.

“We have strict safeguards in place to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets,” Google spokesman José Castañeda told Engadget. “After the investigation, we discovered that this employee had stolen numerous documents, and we quickly sent the case to the law enforcement agencies. We are grateful to the FBI for helping to protect our data and will continue to work closely with them.”

The development comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and China over the explosion of artificial intelligence. Last year, the Biden administration is prohibited Exporting advanced AI chips made by American companies like NVIDIA to China to stop the country from using artificial intelligence to power its military. “Today’s charges are the latest example of the willingness of affiliates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China to steal American innovation,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Stealing innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences.”

The indictment revealed all the details about the nature of the crime. According to the allegations, Ding first copied the data from the Google files into Apple Notes on his laptop, then converted them into PDF files that he uploaded to his personal Google account to avoid detection by Google’s data loss prevention systems. He also gave a Google badge to another Google employee in California to make it look like he was working at Google’s offices in the state, when he was working at rival companies in China. Prosecutors said Ding helped raise capital for one of the Chinese companies where he worked as chief technology officer. Last year, he also founded and served as CEO of another AI company in China.

This is not the first time the United States has arrested a Chinese national for stealing trade secrets from American companies. In the past few years, the US attorney’s office in San Francisco has accused three former Apple employees of stealing trade secrets related to the Apple Car, a project the company recently canceled, and passing them on to companies in China. Last month, one of those engineers was convicted was sentenced to six months in prison and asked to pay a fine of approximately $150,000.

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