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Google employee stole AI technology and leaked information to China

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Google employee stole AI technology and leaked information to China

The 38-year-old is said to have shared the confidential information with Chinese companies. Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The US Department of Justice is accusing a Google employee of stealing confidential AI technology.

Authorities say Linwei Ding, who was arrested on Wednesday, allegedly shared classified information with Chinese companies.

The Justice Department alleges that Ding ran a China-based startup while employed as a software engineer at Google.

A Google employee allegedly stole confidential AI technology while secretly working for tech firms in China. In the indictment released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice, Linwei Ding, also known as Leon Ding, is charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets.

Authorities said Ding was arrested Wednesday morning in Newark, California, about 14 miles (23 km) northeast of Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. According to the indictment, the 38-year-old stole more than 500 files containing detailed information about Google’s AI data center hardware and software, which are considered the building blocks for powerful AI models and are currently revolutionizing the world of technology.

The indictment alleges that Ding founded a secret startup in China without Google knowing about it. The defendant is also said to have commissioned a colleague in the USA to carry out his work tasks so that Google would not become aware of Ding’s secret activities in China.

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“We have strict safeguards in place to prevent theft of our confidential business information and secrets. After an investigation, we discovered that this employee stole numerous documents. “We quickly referred the case to law enforcement,” Google’s José Castañeda told Business Insider US. “We are grateful to the FBI for their help in protecting our information and will continue to work closely with them.”

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Ding, who lives in Newark and is of Chinese nationality, started at Google in 2019 as a software engineer. According to the indictment, developing software used in Google’s supercomputing data centers was one of his main tasks at the company.

According to the indictment, “It was Ding’s job responsibilities at Google that gave him access to confidential information regarding Google’s hardware infrastructure, its software platform, and its AI models and their supporting applications .”

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As a result, Ding began secretly uploading confidential Google information to his private Google cloud in May 2022. Castañeda told Business Insider that the scandal involved a single junior employee, ensuring that this is not a widespread problem at Google.

An email from June 2022 also shows Ding receiving a job offer from a Chinese CEO of a technology company to work as CTO with a monthly salary of $14,800. This emerges from information from federal prosecutors.

Additionally, the indictment mentions that while in China between October 2022 and March 2023, Ding attended meetings to solicit money for the technology company.
In November 2023, Ding presented his own company at a conference for investors.

As a document about the company states: “We already have experience with Google’s ten thousand card computing power platform – we just need to replicate and update it. Next, we must further develop a computing power platform suitable for China’s national conditions,” the indictment says.

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If convicted, Ding faces a $250,000 fine on each count and up to 10 years in prison. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that threaten our national security,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement accompanying the charges.

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