U.S. charges Chinese national with stealing AI trade secrets from Google – CBS News

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Washington — A former Google software engineer who worked on artificial intelligence is accused of stealing more than 500 files containing proprietary information about the tech giant’s supercomputing infrastructure, according to a federal indictment unsealed in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Linwei Ding, a Chinese national living in Newark, California, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with four counts of stealing trade secrets. Federal prosecutors alleged he transferred the secret information from Google to a personal account to benefit tech companies within China.

Court filings revealed the defendant started working for Google in 2019, focusing on software development for machine learning and AI programs. Beginning in May 2022, prosecutors said, he spent a year slowly robbing the tech giant of its proprietary data. 

In June 2022, according to the charging documents, Ding received emails from the CEO of a tech company based in Beijing offering him more than $14,000 per month to serve as an executive focused on machine learning and AI training models. The next year, prosecutors said Ding started a company of his own and pitched his tech business to investors at a Beijing venture capital conference. 

A marketing document Ding is accused of passing to investors at the meeting touted his “experience with Google’s … platform.” 

“We just need to replicate and upgrade it and then further develop a computational power platform suited to China’s national condition,” the document said, according to prosecutors. 

Investigators said he continued to take information from Google until December 2023, when company officials first caught wind of his activity. Weeks later, Ding resigned his position and booked a flight to Beijing. He eventually returned to Newark, where he was arrested Wednesday morning after a months-long FBI investigation. It was not immediately clear whether Ding had an attorney.

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

“The Justice Department just will not tolerate the theft of trade secrets,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday at an event in San Francisco, echoing sentiments of national security officials who have been sounding the alarm about the theft of American technology by foreign adversaries.

The charges against Ding are the first since the Justice Department said it was prioritizing artificial intelligence technology in its efforts to counter those threats. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said last month that protecting AI is “at the very top” of law enforcement’s priority list, noting it is “the ultimate disruptive technology.” 

Jo Ling Kent contributed reporting

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