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Former Google Engineer Accused of Stealing AI Secrets to Found Companies in China

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Former Google Engineer Accused of Stealing AI Secrets to Found Companies in China

Former Google Engineer Arrested for Stealing Artificial Intelligence Information to Create Companies in China

The Department of Justice announced the arrest of a former Google artificial intelligence engineer, Leon Ding, who was accused of stealing information about the company’s advanced technologies with the intention of creating his own companies in China. Ding, a 38-year-old Chinese national, was charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets.

According to the indictment, Ding was hired by Google in 2019 and worked on software development for AI and machine learning applications. Prosecutors alleged that Ding began uploading sensitive Google information to a personal Google Cloud account in 2022 and had uploaded over 500 files by 2023.

The charges against Ding involve theft of trade secrets related to chip architecture and software design specifications for tensor processing units and graphics processing units, which are vital components of supercomputing centers. While still employed at Google, Ding also held positions as chief technology officer of Beijing Rongshu Lianzhi Technology Co. and founder of Shanghai Zhisuan Technology Co. in China without disclosing these roles to Google.

The arrest of Ding is seen as a U.S. government response to the illicit transfer of technology to China, as tensions between the two countries continue to escalate in a technological arms race. Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized that the Justice Department will not tolerate the theft of advanced technologies that could jeopardize national security.

The investigation into Ding was conducted by the Disruptive Technology Strike Force of the Departments of Justice and Commerce, aimed at preventing American technologies from falling into the hands of authoritarian regimes and hostile nation-states. Both the U.S. and Chinese governments view artificial intelligence as a strategic technology with significant potential for economic growth and military applications.

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Google spokesperson José Castañeda confirmed that Google had referred the case to federal authorities and stated that they have strict measures in place to protect confidential business information and trade secrets. If convicted, Ding faces up to 10 years in prison and fines.

Ding, Beijing Rongshu Lianzhi Technology, and Shanghai Zhisuan Technology have not made any comments on the matter. The case highlights the ongoing efforts to safeguard intellectual property and prevent the unauthorized transfer of advanced technologies to foreign entities, particularly those deemed as potential threats to national security.

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