Chinese engineer charged with stealing Google’s AI trade secrets

Chinese engineer charged with stealing Google’s AI trade secretsChinese engineer charged with stealing Google’s AI trade secrets
via Ben Nuttall (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Bryan Ke
March 8, 2024
A former Google software engineer has been charged with stealing the tech giant’s trade secrets to benefit two China-based companies seeking to gain advantage in the AI race.
Allegations: Linwei Ding, 38, also known as Leon Ding, is accused of stealing more than 500 files containing Google’s AI trade secrets, including supercomputing data center components critical for training large AI models. He allegedly stole them between May 21, 2022, and May 2, 2023, using various methods to bypass Google’s security systems, including copying files via Apple Notes and converting them into PDFs.
Background: Ding is a Chinese national residing in Newark, California. He was employed by Google as a software engineer in 2019 and granted access to sensitive information, including its hardware infrastructure, software platform and AI models.
Charging documents say Ding was offered the position of chief technology officer at Beijing Rongshu Lianzhi Technology in June 2022 and that he founded his own startup, Shanghai Zhisuan Technology, in May 2023. He allegedly never disclosed these affiliations while still employed at Google.
Google resignation: Ding reportedly resigned from Google on Dec. 26, 2023, stating that his last day would be Jan. 5, 2024. On Dec. 29, the company learned that he had presented as CEO of Zhisuan at a Beijing investor conference the previous month. Google subsequently suspended his network access, remotely locked his company laptop, searched his network activity history and reported their findings to the FBI.
Charges: Ding has been arrested and is now facing four counts of theft of trade secrets, the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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