Zheng Xu (许正)

Zheng is a research scientist working on federated learning and privacy. He got his PhD on optimization and machine learning from University of Maryland, College Park. More information can be found in google scholar and github.
Authored Publications
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    Efficient Language Model Architectures for Differentially Private Federated Learning
    Yanxiang Zhang
    Privacy Regulation and Protection in Machine Learning Workshop at ICLR 2024(2024) (to appear)
    Preview abstract Cross-device federated learning (FL) is a technique that trains a model on data distributed across typically millions of edge devices without data ever leaving the devices. SGD is the standard client optimizer for on device training in cross-device FL, favored for its memory and computational efficiency. However, in centralized training of neural language models, adaptive optimizers are preferred as they offer improved stability and performance. In light of this, we ask if language models can be modified such that they can be efficiently trained with SGD client optimizers and answer this affirmatively. We propose a scale-invariant \emph{Coupled Input Forget Gate} (SI CIFG) recurrent network by modifying the sigmoid and tanh activations in the recurrent cell and show that this new model converges faster and achieves better utility than the standard CIFG recurrent model in cross-device FL in large scale experiments. We further show that the proposed scale invariant modification also helps in federated learning of larger transformer models. Finally, we demonstrate the scale invariant modification is also compatible with other non-adaptive algorithms. Particularly, our results suggest an improved privacy utility trade-off in federated learning with differential privacy. View details
    Experiencing InstructPipe: Building Multi-modal AI Pipelines via Prompting LLMs and Visual Programming
    Zhongyi Zhou
    Jing Jin
    Xiuxiu Yuan
    Jun Jiang
    Jingtao Zhou
    Yiyi Huang
    Kristen Wright
    Jason Mayes
    Mark Sherwood
    Ram Iyengar
    Na Li
    Extended Abstracts of the 2024 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM, pp. 5
    Preview abstract Foundational multi-modal models have democratized AI access, yet the construction of complex, customizable machine learning pipelines by novice users remains a grand challenge. This paper demonstrates a visual programming system that allows novices to rapidly prototype multimodal AI pipelines. We first conducted a formative study with 58 contributors and collected 236 proposals of multimodal AI pipelines that served various practical needs. We then distilled our findings into a design matrix of primitive nodes for prototyping multimodal AI visual programming pipelines, and implemented a system with 65 nodes. To support users' rapid prototyping experience, we built InstructPipe, an AI assistant based on large language models (LLMs) that allows users to generate a pipeline by writing text-based instructions. We believe InstructPipe enhances novice users onboarding experience of visual programming and the controllability of LLMs by offering non-experts a platform to easily update the generation. View details
    Privacy-Preserving Instructions for Aligning Large Language Models
    Da Yu
    Sewoong Oh
    International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML)(2024)
    Preview abstract 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 View details
    Improved Communication-Privacy Trade-offs in L2 Mean Estimation under Streaming Differential Privacy
    Wei-Ning Chen
    Berivan Isik
    Albert No
    Sewoong Oh
    International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML)(2024)
    Preview abstract We study $L_2$ mean estimation under central differential privacy and communication constraints, and address two key challenges: firstly, existing mean estimation schemes that simultaneously handle both constraints are usually optimized for $L_\infty$ geometry and rely on random rotation or Kashin's representation to adapt to $L_2$ geometry, resulting in suboptimal leading constants in mean square errors (MSEs); secondly, schemes achieving order-optimal communication-privacy trade-offs do not extend seamlessly to streaming differential privacy (DP) settings (e.g., tree aggregation or matrix factorization), rendering them incompatible with DP-FTRL type optimizers. In this work, we tackle these issues by introducing a novel privacy accounting method for the sparsified Gaussian mechanism that incorporates the randomness inherent in sparsification into the DP noise. Unlike previous approaches, our accounting algorithm directly operates in $L_2$ geometry, yielding MSEs that fast converge to those of the uncompressed Gaussian mechanism. Additionally, we extend the sparsification scheme to the matrix factorization framework under streaming DP and provide a precise accountant tailored for DP-FTRL type optimizers. Empirically, our method demonstrates at least a 100x improvement of compression for DP-SGD across various FL tasks. View details
    Preview abstract Foundation models (FMs) adapt well to specific domains or tasks with fine-tuning, and federated learning (FL) enables the potential for privacy-preserving fine-tuning of the FMs with on-device local data. For federated fine-tuning of FMs, we consider the FMs with small to medium parameter sizes of single digit billion at maximum, referred to as on-device FMs (ODFMs) that can be deployed on devices for inference but can only be fine-tuned with parameter efficient methods. In our work, we tackle the data and system heterogeneity problem of federated fine-tuning of ODFMs by proposing a novel method using heterogeneous low-rank approximations (LoRAs), namely HetLoRA. First, we show that the naive approach of using homogeneous LoRA ranks across devices face a trade-off between overfitting and slow convergence, and thus propose HetLoRA, which allows heterogeneous ranks across client devices and efficiently aggregates and distributes these heterogeneous LoRA modules. By applying rank self-pruning locally and sparsity-weighted aggregation at the server, HetLoRA combines the advantages of high and low-rank LoRAs, which achieves improved convergence speed and final performance compared to homogeneous LoRA. Furthermore, HetLoRA offers enhanced computation efficiency compared to full fine-tuning, making it suitable for federated fine-tuning across heterogeneous devices. View details
    On the Convergence of Federated Averaging with Cyclic Client Participation
    Yae Jee Cho
    Pranay Sharma
    Gauri Joshi
    Tong Zhang
    International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML)(2023) (to appear)
    Preview abstract Federated Averaging (FedAvg) and its variants are the most popular optimization algorithms in federated learning (FL). Previous convergence analyses of FedAvg either assume full client participation or partial client participation where the clients can be uniformly sampled. However, in practical cross-device FL systems, only a subset of clients that satisfy local criteria such as battery status, network connectivity, and maximum participation frequency requirements (to ensure privacy) are available for training at a given time. As a result, client availability follows a natural cyclic pattern. We provide (to our knowledge) the first theoretical framework to analyze the convergence of FedAvg with cyclic client participation with several different client optimizers such as GD, SGD, and shuffled SGD. Our analysis discovers that cyclic client participation can achieve a faster asymptotic convergence rate than vanilla FedAvg with uniform client participation under suitable conditions, providing valuable insights into the design of client sampling protocols. View details
    Learning to Generate Image Embeddings with User-level Differential Privacy
    Maxwell D. Collins
    Yuxiao Wang
    Sewoong Oh
    IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR)(2023) (to appear)
    Preview abstract We consider training feature extractors with user-level differential privacy to map images to embeddings from large-scale supervised data. To achieve user-level differential privacy, federated learning algorithms are extended and applied to aggregate user partitioned data, together with sensitivity control and noise addition. We demonstrate a variant of federated learning algorithm with partial aggregation and private reconstruction can achieve strong privacy utility trade-offs. When a large scale dataset is provided, it is possible to train feature extractors with both strong utility and privacy guarantees by combining techniques such as public pretraining, virtual clients, and partial aggregation. View details
    Preview abstract We train language models (LMs) with federated learning (FL) and differential privacy (DP) in the Google Keyboard (Gboard). We apply the DP-Follow-the-Regularized-Leader (DP-FTRL)~\citep{kairouz21b} algorithm to achieve meaningfully formal DP guarantees without requiring uniform sampling of client devices. To provide favorable privacy-utility trade-offs, we introduce a new client participation criterion and discuss the implication of its configuration in large scale systems. We show how quantile-based clip estimation~\citep{andrew2019differentially} can be combined with DP-FTRL to adaptively choose the clip norm during training or reduce the hyperparameter tuning in preparation for training. With the help of pretraining on public data, we train and deploy more than twenty Gboard LMs that achieve high utility and $\rho-$zCDP privacy guarantees with $\rho \in (0.2, 2)$, with two models additionally trained with secure aggregation~\citep{bonawitz2017practical}. We are happy to announce that all the next word prediction neural network LMs in Gboard now have DP guarantees, and all future launches of Gboard neural network LMs will require DP guarantees. We summarize our experience and provide concrete suggestions on DP training for practitioners. View details
    InstructPipe: Building Visual Programming Pipelines with Human Instructions
    Zhongyi Zhou
    Jing Jin
    Xiuxiu Yuan
    Jun Jiang
    Jingtao Zhou
    Yiyi Huang
    Kristen Wright
    Jason Mayes
    Mark Sherwood
    Ram Iyengar
    Na Li
    arXiv, 2312.09672(2023)
    Preview abstract Visual programming provides beginner-level programmers with a coding-free experience to build their customized pipelines. Existing systems require users to build a pipeline entirely from scratch, implying that novice users need to set up and link appropriate nodes all by themselves, starting from a blank workspace. We present InstructPipe, an AI assistant that enables users to start prototyping machine learning (ML) pipelines with text instructions. We designed two LLM modules and a code interpreter to execute our solution. LLM modules generate pseudocode of a target pipeline, and the interpreter renders a pipeline in the node-graph editor for further human-AI collaboration. Technical evaluations reveal that InstructPipe reduces user interactions by 81.1% compared to traditional methods. Our user study (N=16) showed that InstructPipe empowers novice users to streamline their workflow in creating desired ML pipelines, reduce their learning curve, and spark innovative ideas with open-ended commands. View details
    Diurnal or Nocturnal? Federated Learning of Multi-branch Networks from Periodically Shifting Distributions
    Chen Zhu
    Jakub Konečný
    Tom Goldstein
    International Conference on Learning Representations(2022) (to appear)
    Preview abstract Federated learning has been applied to train machine learning models from decentralized client data on mobile devices in practice. The population of the large scale clients are observed to have periodically shifting distributions, which can cause instability in training and degrade the final model performance. In this paper, instead of adopting the block-cyclic distribution shifts in previous papers, we model the population distribution to be a mixture distribution gradually changing between daytime subpopulation and nighttime subpopulation. We verified this intuitive modification better matches the training observation in practical federated learning systems. We propose multi-branch networks to handle the domain differences in subpopulations, and exploit a federated Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm with temporal priors to select branches for each client to handle the distribution shift. Experiments for image classification on EMNIST and CIFAR datasets, and next word prediction on the Stack Overflow dataset show that the proposed algorithm can effectively mitigate the impact of the distribution shift and significantly improve the final model performance. View details