Ex-Google engineer charged with stealing AI trade secrets while working with Chinese companies

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WASHINGTON — A erstwhile package technologist astatine Google has been charged pinch stealing artificial intelligence waste and acquisition secrets from nan institution while secretly moving pinch 2 companies based successful China, nan Justice Department said Wednesday.

Linwei Ding, a Chinese national, was arrested successful Newark, California, connected 4 counts of national waste and acquisition concealed theft, each punishable by up to 10 years successful prison.

The lawsuit against Ding, 38, was announced astatine an American Bar Association convention successful San Francisco by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who on pinch different rule enforcement leaders has many times warned astir nan threat of Chinese economical espionage and astir nan nationalist information concerns posed by advancements successful artificial intelligence and different processing technologies.

“Today’s charges are nan latest illustration of nan lengths affiliates of companies based successful nan People’s Republic of China are consenting to spell to bargain American innovation,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said successful a statement. “The theft of innovative exertion and waste and acquisition secrets from American companies tin costs jobs and person devastating economical and nationalist information consequences.”

Google said it had wished that nan worker had stolen “numerous documents” and referred nan matter to rule enforcement.

“We person strict safeguards to forestall nan theft of our confidential commercialized accusation and waste and acquisition secrets,” Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said successful a statement. “After an investigation, we recovered that this worker stole galore documents, and we quickly referred nan lawsuit to rule enforcement. We are grateful to nan FBI for helping protect our accusation and will proceed cooperating pinch them closely.”

A lawyer listed arsenic Ding’s defense lawyer had nary remark Wednesday evening.

Artificial intelligence is nan main battleground for competitors successful nan section of precocious technology, and nan mobility of who dominates tin person awesome commercialized and information implications. Justice Department leaders successful caller weeks person been sounding alarms astir really overseas adversaries could harness AI technologies to negatively impact nan United States.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said successful a reside past period that nan administration’s multi-agency Disruptive Technology Strike Force would spot AI astatine nan apical of its enforcement privilege list, and Wray told a convention past week that AI and different emerging technologies had made it easier for adversaries to effort to interfere pinch nan American governmental process.

Garland echoed those concerns astatine nan San Francisco event, saying Wednesday that, “As pinch each evolving technologies, (AI) has pluses and minuses, advantages and disadvantages, awesome committedness and nan consequence of awesome harm.”

The indictment unsealed Wednesday successful nan Northern District of California alleges that Ding, who was hired by Google successful 2019 and had entree to confidential accusation astir nan company’s supercomputing information centers, began uploading hundreds of files into a individual Google Cloud relationship 2 years ago.

Within weeks of nan theft starting, prosecutors say, Ding was offered nan position of main exertion serviceman astatine an early-stage exertion institution successful China that touted its usage of AI exertion and that offered him a monthly net of astir $14,800, positive an yearly prize and institution stock. The indictment says Ding traveled to China and participated successful investor meetings astatine nan institution and sought to raise superior for it.

He besides separately founded and served arsenic main executive of a China-based startup institution that aspired to train “large AI models powered by supercomputing chips,” nan indictment said.

Prosecutors opportunity Ding did not disclose either affiliation to Google, which described him Wednesday arsenic a inferior employee.

He resigned from Google past Dec. 26.

Three days later, Google officials learned that he had presented arsenic CEO of 1 of nan Chinese companies astatine an investor convention successful Beijing. Officials besides reviewed surveillance footage showing that different worker had scanned Ding’s entree badge astatine nan Google building successful nan U.S. wherever he worked to make it look for illustration Ding was location during times erstwhile he was really successful China, nan indictment says.

Google suspended Ding’s web entree and locked his laptop, and discovered his unauthorized uploads while searching his web activity history.

The FBI successful January served a hunt warrant astatine Ding’s location and seized his physics devices, and later executed an further warrant for nan contents of his individual accounts containing much than 500 unsocial files of confidential accusation that authorities opportunity he stole from Google.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press