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California: Former Google engineer Linwei Ding charged with stealing AI trade secrets for Chinese companies

As per the indictment against Ding, who is a Chinese national, he misappropriated over 500 confidential documents from Google related to its supercomputing data centres that are essential for hosting and training the expensive AI models.

On 6th March (local time), a former Google engineer was reportedly charged with stealing AI trade secrets for Chinese companies. 38-year-old Linwei Ding was arrested and charged with theft of trade secrets in California. Linwei Ding alias Leon Ding is facing serious allegations of fraudulently acquiring confidential information pertinent to Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects. Reports suggest that he was engaging with two Chinese companies.

As per the indictment against Ding, who is a Chinese national, he misappropriated over 500 confidential documents from Google related to its supercomputing data centres that are essential for hosting and training the expensive AI models. Ding’s actions might lead to a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to USD 25,000 for each of the four counts he has been charged with.

In 2019, Ding was serving as an engineer at Google. During that period, he also became Chief Technology Officer at Beijing Rongshu Lianzhi Technology and founded Shanghai Zhisuan Technology focusing on AI and machine learning. As per the indictment documents, Ding failed to disclose his external engagements with Google and thus breached the trust and legal obligations.

His unauthorised activities at Google were discovered when the company detected suspicious attempts to transfer files to a personal computer when Ding was in China. Initially, he claimed that it was evidence of his employment at Google. However, an investigation was initiated by the company after he abruptly resigned from Google on 26th December last year. During the investigation, Google found that there were several instances of infringements.

In a statement, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “The justice department will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that could put our national security at risk.” He added, “We will fiercely protect sensitive technologies developed in America from falling into the hands of those who should not have them”.

FBI director Christopher Wray said that Ding’s arrest illustrates, “the lengths affiliates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China are willing to go to steal American innovation.” He added, “The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences.”

Responding to the unfolding events, Google highlighted that they have robust measures in place to safeguard commercial information. The company further added that they reported the suspected misconduct to the authorities immediately. Google’s spokesperson Jose Castaneda said that the company is committed to protecting its intellectual property.

Google’s AI image generation put on hold after criticism

Charges against Ding came at a time when Google was already facing criticism over the image generation capabilities of its AI model Gemini. In February this year, Google apologised as its chatbot Gemini (formerly known as Bard) failed to generate images portraying racially and ethnically accurate historical figures. Interestingly, the chatbot could also not create pictures of Caucasian or ‘White’ people, while it conveniently developed images when asked for other ethnicities.

In a statement, the head of product for Google’s AI division acknowledged the problem where Gemini created images of several White historical figures as black, Native American, or Asian. The list included the pictures of the American Founding Fathers and the Pope. Users who accused the search engine’s AI model of going “Woke” shared the inaccuracies on social media.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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