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Ex-Apple engineer stole autonomous car tech for China, DOJ says

China and US flags. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle/Released)
May 16, 2023

A former Apple software engineer allegedly stole autonomous technology from Apple for a Chinese car company, the Department of Justice revealed on Tuesday.

Weibao Wang was charged with six counts of stealing or attempting to steal Apple’s “entire autonomy source code,” tracking systems, behavior planning for autonomous systems and hardware descriptions, according to the indictment, which was obtained by CNBC.

READ MORE: Apple CEO says company ‘enjoys symbiotic’ relationship with China

In 2018, law enforcement officers searched Wang’s California home and found large quantities of stolen, confidential and proprietary data.

From San Francisco International Airport, Wang boarded a flight to Guangzhou, China. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, Ismail Ramsey, said Wang faces ten years in prison if extradited and convicted.

As part of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force’s sweeping enforcement action, the charges were announced. As well as these criminal cases, four others were revealed in the United States involving the transfer of sensitive ballistic technology to Iranian forces, the export of quantum technology to Russian intelligence units, and sanctions-violating exports.

Another Apple employee, Xiaolang Zhang, pleaded guilty to a similar theft involving Apple’s car division’s trade secrets in federal court in San Jose.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice under President Joe Biden announced it was shutting down a China-focused national security initiative it started under President Donald Trump to counter spying. The department said it will instead take a “broader approach” to countering “nation-state threats.”

“We have heard concerns from the civil rights community that the ‘China Initiative’ fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said at the time. “To many, that narrative suggests that the Justice Department treats people from China or of Chinese descent differently. The rise in anti-Asian hate crime and hate incidents only heightens these concerns. The Department is keenly aware of this threat and is enhancing efforts to combat acts of hate. These efforts are reflected in the Attorney General’s memorandum issued last year following the enactment of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.”

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.