Top engineer who stole trade secrets from Google's self-driving division pardoned on Trump's last day as president

As recommended by Peter Thiel


On his last day in office, US president Donald Trump pardoned 73 people and commuted the sentences of 70 others – including Anthony Levandowski who admitted stealing trade secrets from Waymo while a self-driving car researcher.

Breitbart founder and one-time Cambridge Analytica board member Steve Bannon was also among those receiving clemency over fraud charges regarding a fundraiser for Trump's infamous border wall, as were some rappers.

In August last year, Levandowski, an engineer in Google's self-driving Waymo division from 2007 to 2016, pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets and was sent down for 18 months. He was also ordered to pay Google $756,499.22 in compensation and a fine of $95,000.

He had resigned from Google to co-found Otto, an autonomous truck firm sold to Uber in 2016. Levandowski was accused of leaving Waymo with more than 14,000 files detailing its proprietary Lidar technology and sharing them with Uber.

Google sued Uber over the matter and the companies settled for $245m of Uber stock in 2018. The US Attorney's office took action against Levandowski, filing 33 charges alleging theft and attempted theft of trade secrets, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1832.

Explaining Levandowski's full pardon, the White House press secretary said he "has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good". It was noted the sentencing judge described him as a "brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs".

prison

Raytheon techie who took home radar secrets gets 18 months in the clink in surprise time fraud probe twist

READ MORE

The individuals supporting the pardon include Peter Thiel, the prominent Trump financier and PayPal investor who founded AI firm Palantir, which largely carries out information analysis and processing work for the defence and intelligence communities, including the CIA and controversial US border agency ICE. The firm has also fingers in NHS data in the UK.

Also campaigning for Levandowski's pardon was Palmer Luckey, VR firm Oculus's CEO when it was acquired by Facebook.

Levandowski joins a long list of names to be pardoned hours before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Among them is Bannon, the media entrepreneur and alt-right cheerleader who led Trump's 2016 election campaign and became senior counsel to the president following the election, leaving eight months later to rejoin the right-wing news site Breitbart, which he founded.

The White House statement said: "Prosecutors pursued Mr Bannon with charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project. Mr Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen."

Bannon stood charged with fraud in connection with the "We Build the Wall" campaign. He is alleged to have received more than $1m of the donations, some of which he is accused of using to cover personal expenses.

Bannon also helped found Cambridge Analytica, which, it is said, harvested millions of Facebook user profiles and used that information to fling targeted political ads at voters.

Facebook later suspended any business with the controversial outfit.

Others receiving clemency include Elliott Broidy, one of Trump's former fundraisers who illegally lobbied the US administation to ditch its probe into the 1MDB corruption shocker in Malaysia; hip hop stars Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, previously prosecued for federal weapons offences; and Kenneth Kurson, a pal of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was charged in October with cyberstalking. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022