Ex-Google employee charged with stealing AI tech, working with Chinese companies

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What you need to know

  • Google's ex-employee was charged today for stealing AI tech and secretly transferring confidential files to his personal Google account.
  • Linwei Ding was charged with four counts of federal trade secret theft, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • Google said in a statement that it found this employee stole numerous documents, and it reached out to the FBI immediately.

An ex-Google employee was charged on Wednesday (Mar. 6) for stealing Artificial Intelligence technology from Google and also secretly working with two Chinese companies, the Associated Press reported

The report stated that 38-year-old Linwei Ding is a Chinese national who was arrested in Newark, California. Ding was charged with four counts of federal trade secret theft, each punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years.

"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 indictment, revealed on Wednesday, alleges that Ding, who was hired by Google in 2019, had responsibilities that included developing the software deployed in Google’s supercomputing data centers. With access to this information, Ding began transferring sensitive Google trade secrets and other confidential information to his personal Google Cloud two years ago.

"Ding continued periodic uploads until May 2, 2023, by which time Ding allegedly uploaded more than 500 unique files containing confidential information," the U.S. Department of Justice stated.

"The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences," Wray added.

Following the theft, prosecutors allege that Ding was offered a chief technology officer position at a startup AI company in China and participated in investor meetings for that company. 

The report also claims that Ding founded and served as chief executive of a China-based startup company set to train AI models powered by supercomputing chips.

"After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement," a Google spokesperson told Android Central in a statement. "We are grateful to the FBI for helping protect our information and will continue cooperating with them closely."

The spokesperson added that Google has "strict safeguards" to prevent the theft of its confidential commercial information and trade secrets.

If convicted, Ding could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each count. 

Nandika Ravi
News Editor

Nandika Ravi is an Editor for Android Central. Based in Toronto, after rocking the news scene as a Multimedia Reporter and Editor at Rogers Sports and Media, she now brings her expertise into the Tech ecosystem. When not breaking tech news, you can catch her sipping coffee at cozy cafes, exploring new trails with her boxer dog, or leveling up in the gaming universe.