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Google engineer indicted over allegedly stealing AI trade secrets for China

2024-03-07 15:14 by


A former Google engineer was arrested in California on Wednesday for stealing more than 500 files containing artificial intelligence trade secrets from the company and using the information to benefit rival tech companies in China.

Linwei Ding, also known as Leon Ding, was charged on Tuesday by a federal jury in San Francisco with four counts of theft of trade secrets.

Much of the stolen data allegedly revolves around Google's tensor processing unit (TPU) chips. Google's TPU chips power many of its AI workloads and, in conjunction with Nvidia GPUs, can train and run AI models like Gemini. The company has also offered access to the chips through partner platforms like Hugging Face.

The filing at the federal California court provides a timeline of Ding's alleged data thefts, as well as some background information indicating how he was discovered. Apparently, the Chinese national began exfiltrating files in May 2022, sending them to a personal Google Cloud account. Google's protection policy enforcers would have noticed this earlier if it wasn't for Ding "copying data from the Google source files into the Apple Notes application on his Google-issued MacBook laptop," says the filing. "Ding then converted the Apple Notes into PDF files and uploaded them from the Google network into DING Account 1." Another personal account dubbed DING Account 2 was accessed while the ex-employee was on one of his China trips.

When Google's internal investigators quizzed Ding in December 2023, he signed a legal document saying he had no non-public Google information in his possession. He never admitted to uploading more than 500 confidential files, or working for / founding Chinese companies.

The case against Ding, was announced at an American Bar Association conference in San Francisco by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who along with other law enforcement leaders has repeatedly warned about the threat of Chinese economic espionage and about the national security concerns posed by advancements in artificial intelligence and other developing technologies.

"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," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. "The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences."

Read more -here-


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