DOJ indicts former Google employee for stealing AI for China-owned companies News
DOJ indicts former Google employee for stealing AI for China-owned companies

A federal grand jury indicted former Google employee Linwei Ding on Wednesday for allegedly stealing information from Google while secretly working for two Chinese technology companies. Ding has been charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets in relation to his alleged plan to steal artificial intelligence (AI) information from Google.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that Ding, a Chinese national and resident of California, transferred sensitive Google trade secrets and other confidential information to his personal account. Ding has worked at Google as a software engineer since 2019. In his role, he was granted access to confidential information. The indictment indicates that on May 21, 2022, Ding began to secretly upload trade secrets to his personal Google Cloud account. These uploads continued periodically until May 2, 2023, over which time Ding allegedly uploaded more than 500 files containing confidential information.

During the time he was allegedly stealing this information, Ding was linked to a Chinese start up, where he took on the role of chief technology officer. He reportedly traveled to China to work with the company between October 29, 2022 to March 25, 2023. Ding also went on to start his own technology company in the AI industry in May 2023. According to the DOJ, one document related to Ding’s company stated, “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.”

US Attorney General Merrick Garland is taking the matter seriously stating, “[T]he Justice Department will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that could put our national security at risk.” FBI Director, Christopher Wray, also shared Garland’s concern:

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. The FBI will continue its efforts to vigorously pursue those responsible for stealing U.S. companies’ intellectual property and most closely guarded secrets.

Ding faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of theft. The FBI and the Department of Commerce continue to investigate the case.