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  • Philip Osadebay - Tech Journalist

Former Google AI engineer charged with stealing trade secrets for Chinese firm

A former Google engineer is accused of stealing some of the company's most precious secrets, including sensitive knowledge about its cutting-edge AI supercomputing capabilities. Linwei Ding, a Chinese national, was detained in Newark, California, on Tuesday after being charged with four counts of trade secret theft by a federal jury in San Francisco.

"The Justice Department simply will not tolerate the theft of our trade secrets and intelligence," Attorney General Merrick said during the meeting. He is well regarded as a passionate advocate for vigilance against Chinese economic espionage and possible security dangers posed by advances in AI and other technologies.

Linwei Ding was detained early Wednesday morning at his California residence. According to reports, Ding unlawfully aided two Chinese enterprises for whom he surreptitiously worked by transferring AI technology and trade secrets from his present company. Attorney General Merrick Garland overruled the judgment before an American Bar Association meeting in San Francisco.

Linwei Ding, a Chinese national and former Google LLC employee who joined the company as a software engineer in 2019, reportedly began transferring trade secrets from Google's network to his personal Google Cloud account on May 21, 2022. 

By May 30, 2023, Ding had founded his own technology business focused on AI and machine learning. On March 5, 2024, at the age of 38, he was charged with four charges of theft of trade secrets, each punishable by up to ten years.

In a statement to Reuters, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated, "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." He added.

According to the Associated Press, "Within weeks of the theft beginning, prosecutors claim Ding was offered the position of chief technology officer at an early-stage Chinese technology company that highlighted its use of AI technology." According to the accusation, Ding flew to China, attended investor meetings at the firm, and attempted to raise funds for it.


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