Google Sued An Ex-employee Who Stole AI Secrets To Benefit His Chinese Employers

By Consultants Review Team Thursday, 07 March 2024

A former employee of Google is facing legal action from the company for allegedly obtaining AI trade secrets and disclosing them to two Chinese businesses. According to a Reuters story, Linwei Ding, better known as Leon Ding, was a former software developer at Google and was charged in California with stealing trade secrets pertaining to artificial intelligence from Alphabet, Google's parent company. Wednesday morning he was taken into custody from his residence.

Four charges of theft of trade secrets have been brought against the 38-year-old Chinese national, a federal jury in San Francisco has learned. According to the indictment, Ding accessed confidential information illegally that was necessary for Google's supercomputing data centers, which are used to build massive AI models using machine learning.

Speaking at a conference in San Francisco, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland declared, "The Justice Department just will not tolerate the theft of our trade secrets and intelligence." According to the indictment, Ding stole information that was necessary to operate a supercomputer that was characterized as "capable of executing at the cutting edge of machine learning and AI technology." This material included specifics regarding chips, systems, and software.

After joining Google in 2019, Ding is said to have started stealing AI trade secrets three years later. According to a Reuters article, the thefts started when he was being considered for a position as chief technology officer for a Chinese internet startup in its early stages. The allegation goes on to say that he uploaded more than 500 private files by May 2023.

Google moved against Ding in December 2023, confiscating his laptop on January 4, 2024, the day before he was supposed to quit, in response to mounting suspicions. "We have stringent safeguards in place to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets," Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said in a statement. After looking into it, we found that this employee had removed many documents, so we immediately reported the matter to the police." Ding may now be sentenced to a maximum of ten years in jail and a fine of $250,000 for each of the criminal counts.

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