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Chulin Xie, Zinan Lin, Arturs Backurs, Sivakanth Gopi, Da Yu, Huseyin A Inan, Harsha Nori, Haotian Jiang, Huishuai Zhang, Yin Tat Lee, Bo Li, Sergey Yekhanin

Text data has become extremely valuable due to the emergence of machine learning algorithms that learn from it. A lot of high-quality text data generated in the real world is private and therefore cannot be shared or used freely due to privacy concerns. Generating synthetic replicas of private text data with a formal privacy guarantee, i.e., differential privacy (DP), offers a promising and scalable solution. However, existing methods necessitate DP finetuning of large language models (LLMs) on private data to generate DP synthetic data. This approach is not viable for proprietary LLMs (e.g., GPT-3.5) and also demands considerable computational resources for open-source LLMs. Lin et al. (2024) recently introduced the Private Evolution (PE) algorithm to generate DP synthetic images with only API access to diffusion models. In this work, we propose an augmented PE algorithm, named Aug-PE, that applies to the complex setting of text. We use API access to an LLM and generate DP synthetic text without any model training. We conduct comprehensive experiments on three benchmark datasets. Our results demonstrate that Aug-PE produces DP synthetic text that yields competitive utility with the SOTA DP finetuning baselines. This underscores the feasibility of relying solely on API access of LLMs to produce high-quality DP synthetic texts, thereby facilitating more accessible routes to privacy-preserving LLM applications. Our code and data are available at https://github.com/AI-secure/aug-pe.

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Da Yu, Peter Kairouz, Sewoong Oh, Zheng Xu

Service providers of large language model (LLM) applications collect user instructions in the wild and use them in further aligning LLMs with users' intentions. These instructions, which potentially contain sensitive information, are annotated by human workers in the process. This poses a new privacy risk not addressed by the typical private optimization. To this end, we propose using synthetic instructions to replace real instructions in data annotation and model fine-tuning. Formal differential privacy is guaranteed by generating those synthetic instructions using privately fine-tuned generators. Crucial in achieving the desired utility is our novel filtering algorithm that matches the distribution of the synthetic instructions to that of the real ones. In both supervised fine-tuning and reinforcement learning from human feedback, our extensive experiments demonstrate the high utility of the final set of synthetic instructions by showing comparable results to real instructions. In supervised fine-tuning, models trained with private synthetic instructions outperform leading open-source models such as Vicuna.

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Da Yu, Sivakanth Gopi, Janardhan Kulkarni, Zinan Lin, Saurabh Naik, Tomasz Lukasz Religa, Jian Yin, Huishuai Zhang

Suppose we want to train text prediction models in email clients or word processors. The models must preserve the privacy of user data and adhere to a specific fixed size to meet memory and inference time requirements. We introduce a generic framework to solve this problem. Specifically, we are given a public dataset $D_\text{pub}$ and a private dataset $D_\text{priv}$ corresponding to a downstream task $T$. How should we pre-train a fixed-size model $M$ on $D_\text{pub}$ and fine-tune it on $D_\text{priv}$ such that performance of $M$ with respect to $T$ is maximized and $M$ satisfies differential privacy with respect to $D_\text{priv}$? We show that pre-training on a {\em subset} of dataset $D_\text{pub}$ that brings the public distribution closer to the private distribution is a crucial ingredient to maximize the transfer learning abilities of $M$ after pre-training, especially in the regimes where model sizes are relatively small. Besides performance improvements, our framework also shows that with careful pre-training and private fine-tuning, {\em smaller models} can match the performance of much larger models, highlighting the promise of differentially private training as a tool for model compression and efficiency.

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Jiyan He, Xuechen Li, Da Yu, Huishuai Zhang, Janardhan Kulkarni, Yin Tat Lee, Arturs Backurs, Nenghai Yu, Jiang Bian

Differentially private deep learning has recently witnessed advances in computational efficiency and privacy-utility trade-off. We explore whether further improvements along the two axes are possible and provide affirmative answers leveraging two instantiations of \emph{group-wise clipping}. To reduce the compute time overhead of private learning, we show that \emph{per-layer clipping}, where the gradient of each neural network layer is clipped separately, allows clipping to be performed in conjunction with backpropagation in differentially private optimization. This results in private learning that is as memory-efficient and almost as fast per training update as non-private learning for many workflows of interest. While per-layer clipping with constant thresholds tends to underperform standard flat clipping, per-layer clipping with adaptive thresholds matches or outperforms flat clipping under given training epoch constraints, hence attaining similar or better task performance within less wall time. To explore the limits of scaling (pretrained) models in differentially private deep learning, we privately fine-tune the 175 billion-parameter GPT-3. We bypass scaling challenges associated with clipping gradients that are distributed across multiple devices with \emph{per-device clipping} that clips the gradient of each model piece separately on its host device. Privately fine-tuning GPT-3 with per-device clipping achieves a task performance at $\epsilon=1$ better than what is attainable by non-privately fine-tuning the largest GPT-2 on a summarization task.

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Huishuai Zhang, Da Yu, Yiping Lu, Di He

Adversarial examples, which are usually generated for specific inputs with a specific model, are ubiquitous for neural networks. In this paper we unveil a surprising property of adversarial noises when they are put together, i.e., adversarial noises crafted by one-step gradient methods are linearly separable if equipped with the corresponding labels. We theoretically prove this property for a two-layer network with randomly initialized entries and the neural tangent kernel setup where the parameters are not far from initialization. The proof idea is to show the label information can be efficiently backpropagated to the input while keeping the linear separability. Our theory and experimental evidence further show that the linear classifier trained with the adversarial noises of the training data can well classify the adversarial noises of the test data, indicating that adversarial noises actually inject a distributional perturbation to the original data distribution. Furthermore, we empirically demonstrate that the adversarial noises may become less linearly separable when the above conditions are compromised while they are still much easier to classify than original features.

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Da Yu, Gautam Kamath, Janardhan Kulkarni, Tie-Yan Liu, Jian Yin, Huishuai Zhang

Differentially private stochastic gradient descent (DP-SGD) is the workhorse algorithm for recent advances in private deep learning. It provides a single privacy guarantee to all datapoints in the dataset. We propose an efficient algorithm to compute per-instance privacy guarantees for individual examples when running DP-SGD. We use our algorithm to investigate per-instance privacy losses across a number of datasets. We find that most examples enjoy stronger privacy guarantees than the worst-case bounds. We further discover that the loss and the privacy loss on an example are well-correlated. This implies groups that are underserved in terms of model utility are simultaneously underserved in terms of privacy loss. For example, on CIFAR-10, the average $\epsilon$ of the class with the highest loss (Cat) is 32% higher than that of the class with the lowest loss (Ship). We also run membership inference attacks to show this reflects disparate empirical privacy risks.

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Da Yu, Huishuai Zhang, Wei Chen, Jian Yin, Tie-Yan Liu

Indiscriminate data poisoning attacks, which add imperceptible perturbations to training data to maximize the test error of trained models, have become a trendy topic because they are thought to be capable of preventing unauthorized use of data. In this work, we investigate why these perturbations work in principle. We find that the perturbations of advanced poisoning attacks are almost \textbf{linear separable} when assigned with the target labels of the corresponding samples, which hence can work as \emph{shortcuts} for the learning objective. This important population property has not been unveiled before. Moreover, we further verify that linear separability is indeed the workhorse for poisoning attacks. We synthesize linear separable data as perturbations and show that such synthetic perturbations are as powerful as the deliberately crafted attacks. Our finding suggests that the \emph{shortcut learning} problem is more serious than previously believed as deep learning heavily relies on shortcuts even if they are of an imperceptible scale and mixed together with the normal features. This finding also suggests that pre-trained feature extractors would disable these poisoning attacks effectively.

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Da Yu, Saurabh Naik, Arturs Backurs, Sivakanth Gopi, Huseyin A. Inan, Gautam Kamath, Janardhan Kulkarni, Yin Tat Lee, Andre Manoel, Lukas Wutschitz, Sergey Yekhanin, Huishuai Zhang

We give simpler, sparser, and faster algorithms for differentially private fine-tuning of large-scale pre-trained language models, which achieve the state-of-the-art privacy versus utility tradeoffs on many standard NLP tasks. We propose a meta-framework for this problem, inspired by the recent success of highly parameter-efficient methods for fine-tuning. Our experiments show that differentially private adaptations of these approaches outperform previous private algorithms in three important dimensions: utility, privacy, and the computational and memory cost of private training. On many commonly studied datasets, the utility of private models approaches that of non-private models. For example, on the MNLI dataset we achieve an accuracy of $87.8\%$ using RoBERTa-Large and $83.5\%$ using RoBERTa-Base with a privacy budget of $\epsilon = 6.7$. In comparison, absent privacy constraints, RoBERTa-Large achieves an accuracy of $90.2\%$. Our findings are similar for natural language generation tasks. Privately fine-tuning with DART, GPT-2-Small, GPT-2-Medium, GPT-2-Large, and GPT-2-XL achieve BLEU scores of 38.5, 42.0, 43.1, and 43.8 respectively (privacy budget of $\epsilon = 6.8,\delta=$ 1e-5) whereas the non-private baseline is $48.1$. All our experiments suggest that larger models are better suited for private fine-tuning: while they are well known to achieve superior accuracy non-privately, we find that they also better maintain their accuracy when privacy is introduced.

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Da Yu, Huishuai Zhang, Wei Chen, Jian Yin, Tie-Yan Liu

We propose a reparametrization scheme to address the challenges of applying differentially private SGD on large neural networks, which are 1) the huge memory cost of storing individual gradients, 2) the added noise suffering notorious dimensional dependence. Specifically, we reparametrize each weight matrix with two \emph{gradient-carrier} matrices of small dimension and a \emph{residual weight} matrix. We argue that such reparametrization keeps the forward/backward process unchanged while enabling us to compute the projected gradient without computing the gradient itself. To learn with differential privacy, we design \emph{reparametrized gradient perturbation (RGP)} that perturbs the gradients on gradient-carrier matrices and reconstructs an update for the original weight from the noisy gradients. Importantly, we use historical updates to find the gradient-carrier matrices, whose optimality is rigorously justified under linear regression and empirically verified with deep learning tasks. RGP significantly reduces the memory cost and improves the utility. For example, we are the first able to apply differential privacy on the BERT model and achieve an average accuracy of $83.9\%$ on four downstream tasks with $\epsilon=8$, which is within $5\%$ loss compared to the non-private baseline but enjoys much lower privacy leakage risk.

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Da Yu, Huishuai Zhang, Wei Chen, Tie-Yan Liu

The privacy leakage of the model about the training data can be bounded in the differential privacy mechanism. However, for meaningful privacy parameters, a differentially private model degrades the utility drastically when the model comprises a large number of trainable parameters. In this paper, we propose an algorithm \emph{Gradient Embedding Perturbation (GEP)} towards training differentially private deep models with decent accuracy. Specifically, in each gradient descent step, GEP first projects individual private gradient into a non-sensitive anchor subspace, producing a low-dimensional gradient embedding and a small-norm residual gradient. Then, GEP perturbs the low-dimensional embedding and the residual gradient separately according to the privacy budget. Such a decomposition permits a small perturbation variance, which greatly helps to break the dimensional barrier of private learning. With GEP, we achieve decent accuracy with reasonable computational cost and modest privacy guarantee for deep models. Especially, with privacy bound $\epsilon=8$, we achieve $74.9\%$ test accuracy on CIFAR10 and $95.1\%$ test accuracy on SVHN, significantly improving over existing results.

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