Chinese citizen charged with stealing AI technology from Google: DOJ

  • Linwei Ding, also known as Leon Ding, 38, of Newark, California, was charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets for allegedly stealing AI files from Google.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the charges and said the Justice Department wouldn’t tolerate the theft of advanced technology that could put the country at risk.

WASHINGTON – A Chinese citizen was charged with stealing trade secrets from Google about artificial intelligence technology, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday.

Linwei Ding, who is also known as Leon Ding, was charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets. Ding, 38, a resident of Newark, Calif., was arrested there Wednesday and the indictment unsealed.

Ding is charged with transferring sensitive Google trade secrets and other confidential information from the company’s network to his personal account while secretly affiliating himself with Chinese companies.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that could put our national security at risk,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at an American Bar Association conference on white-collar crime in San Francisco. “In this case, we allege the defendant stole artificial intelligence-related trade secrets from Google while secretly working for two companies based in China.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland appears before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Google tracked alleged theft in internal investigation

Google contacted the FBI after determining through an internal investigation that the employee allegedly had stolen numerous documents. The company’s security systems restrict employee access to sensitive information, require each device to be uniquely identified and require two-factor identification.

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“We have strict safeguards to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets,” said Jose Castañeda, a Google spokesperson. “After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement.”

A sign is posted in front of an office at Google headquarters on December 19, 2023 in Mountain View, California.

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The Biden administration has been seeking to make it more difficult for China to make breakthroughs on artificial intelligence and restrict Beijing’s access to technology that can be used by its military. The Chinese foreign ministry criticized the U.S. for “weaponizing trade and tech issues.”