A Chinese national living in Newark was arrested by the feds for allegedly stealing AI technology from Google, and secretly sending the information to two Chinese companies he was working for on the sly.

For all of the laughs those of us who don't work in tech have over the half-baked results of AI technology, or how a lot of people just use AI for porn, the reality is that the United States is still the global leader in that highly significant sector. And other countries covet our technological advances in AI.

One way to gain access to those technological advances is to simply steal them, and people do try, as NPR reports that a Chinese national living in Alameda County has been arrested for stealing AI trade secrets from Google, and shipping them to Chinese companies he was clandestinely working for.

Now-fired Google employee Linwei “Leon” Ding, 38, was hired by Google in 2019, and lived in Newark. But at some point, a Beijing-based company started paying him to send them files on Google’s AI technology. According to the Hill, Ding initially evaded detection with a multi-step process wherein he copied company files into his Apple Notes app, converted them to PDFs, and uploaded them to his personal account. He then quit Google in December 2023, but had allegedly presented the pilfered information at Chinese investor conferences for a separate startup that he’d founded.

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

The New York Times reports that Ding was secretly being paid $14,800 a month by a Chinese firm, along with bonuses and stock options, for about the last year and a half he was employed at Google. And it appears he had one or more Google employees affiliated with the scheme.

An Associated Press report adds that according to the federal charging document, another employee would swipe Ding’s ID badge to make it appear Ding was at Google’s Mountain View headquarters when he was actually off in China.

It was apparently Google who tipped off the FBI that something fishy was going on.

“We have strict safeguards to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets,” Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said in a statement to the AP. “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.”

Google apparently noticed this in December 2023, and a company investigator interviewed him over the matter, according to NPR. Ding promptly resigned from Google and bought a one-way ticket to Beijing, which is when the FBI moved in.

As KTVU reports, Ding faces four counts of stealing trade secrets, each of which carries a possible $10,000 fine, and he could face a prison sentence of up to ten years.  

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