A former Google engineer, Linwei Ding, also known as Leon Ding, has been arrested and charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets related to artificial intelligence (AI). The indictment alleges that Ding stole confidential information from Google to benefit two Chinese companies he was secretly working with.

Ding, a Chinese national was employed by Google since 2019 and had access to sensitive data concerning the company’s supercomputing data centers, which are crucial for running Google’s powerful AI systems. According to the Department of Justice, Ding began uploading hundreds of confidential files containing this information to his personal Google Cloud account in May 2022.

The indictment further details that within weeks of initiating the data theft, Ding received an offer for the position of Chief Technology Officer at a Chinese tech startup that emphasized its use of AI technology. The company reportedly offered Ding a lucrative salary package, including a significant monthly salary, annual bonus, and company stock options.

Google became suspicious of Ding’s activities in December 2023 and deactivated his access to company resources in January 2024, just before his planned resignation. Law enforcement officials subsequently arrested Ding at his California residence.

This case highlights growing concerns about the theft of intellectual property related to cutting-edge technologies like AI. US intelligence officials have warned that China, among other countries, is actively seeking to obtain American technological advancements for its own economic and military gain.

The charges against Ding carry a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison for each count. It remains to be seen how the case will unfold, but it raises critical questions about how tech companies can safeguard their intellectual property and the potential impact of such thefts on the future of technological innovation.