Google employee charged with stealing AI trade secrets – CNN

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A Google employee was charged Tuesday with stealing artificial intelligence trade secrets from the tech giant while secretly working with two Chinese-based companies in the AI industry.

Linwei Ding, who also goes by Leon Ding, is charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for each count.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that could put our national security at risk,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Wednesday, adding that “we will fiercely protect sensitive technologies developed in America from falling into the hands of those who should not have them.”

Ding, a 38-year-old Chinese national who lives in California, is accused of copying more than 500 files with confidential information from Google into his own personal account over the course of one year, beginning in 2022. The files included technology involved in the building blocks of Google’s advanced supercomputing data centers, prosecutors say.

An attorney for Ding is not yet listed.

As part of his responsibilities at Google, prosecutors say, Ding helped to develop the software deployed in Google’s supercomputing data centers. Because of that work, Ding had access to Google’s “hardware infrastructure, the software platform, and the AI models and applications they supported,” they say.

A few months after Ding allegedly began copying Google’s files, he was offered the chief technology officer role for an “early-stage technology company” based in China, the Justice Department says. Ding allegedly traveled to China for several months, where he participated in investor meetings to raise money for the company, and potential investors to the company were told that Ding was an executive and owned 20% of the company’s stock.

Ding took steps to conceal his work while in China, prosecutors say, including by having another employee use his badge to access his office so that it would look like he was in the United States.

Within the next year, Ding founded his own technology company in the “AI and machine learning industry,” prosecutors say. The company allegedly applied to a Chinese-based startup program and boasted that “we have experience with Google’s ten-thousand-card computational power platform; we just need to replicate and upgrade it – and then further develop a computational power platform suited to China’s national conditions.”

In a statement, Google said it conducted a thorough investigation into Ding’s alleged misconduct and quickly referred the case to the FBI. Ding was a junior employee, Google spokesperson José Castañeda told CNN, and the company monitors file transfers to cloud storage platforms including Google Drive and Dropbox.

“We have strict safeguards to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets,” Castañeda said. “After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement. We are grateful to the FBI for helping protect our information and will continue cooperating with them closely.”

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