Ex-Google Engineer Charged With Stealing Trade Secrets While Working For Chinese Companies

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Jake Smith Contributor
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An ex-Google employee was charged with stealing trade secrets while working for Chinese technology companies, the Department of Justice said on Monday.

Linwei Ding, a 38-year-old Chinese national who previously worked as an engineer for Google, swiped company technology and AI trade secrets while he worked for two China-based technology companies, according to the DOJ. Ding is charged with four counts of trade secret theft; he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in penalties for each count if convicted. (RELATED: US Charges Four Chinese Nationals With Exporting Sensitive American Electronic Equipment To Iran’s Military)

“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 on Wednesday. “The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences. The FBI will continue its efforts to vigorously pursue those responsible for stealing U.S. companies’ intellectual property and most closely guarded secrets.”

The DOJ alleges that Ding was hired as a software engineer by Google in 2019 and given access to confidential information related to the company’s hardware and software infrastructure and their respective artificial intelligence capabilities. In 2022, Ding began stealing hundreds of company secrets and transferred them onto his personal account; by May 2023, he had stolen 500 such files.

“We have strict safeguards to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets,” a Google spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement. We are grateful to the FBI for helping protect our information and will continue cooperating with them closely.”

Ding had been brought on as chief technology officer (CTO) of a Chinese-based technology startup company in 2022 — while he was still committing theft from Google — and was reportedly given 20% of the company’s shares, according to the DOJ. He also founded his own technology startup company in China focused on machine learning and AI models.

One document from Ding’s company claims it had “experience with Google’s ten-thousand-card computational power platform; we just need to replicate and upgrade it – and then further develop a computational power platform suited to China’s national conditions,” according to the DOJ.

Ding resigned from Google on Dec. 26, 2023, according to the indictment. Google discovered his affiliation with one of the Chinese companies and his theft of trade secrets days after he resigned, and an FBI investigation was opened days later, which eventually led to the subsequent charges against him.

Beijing has made multiple efforts to steal American technology and intellectual property and bring it back to China for itself or foreign adversaries’ benefit. FBI Director Chris Wray said in October that there is “no greater threat to innovation than the Chinese government”; The FBI has seen a 1300% increase in investigations into the matter over the last several years.

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