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EANA: Reducing Privacy Risk on Large-scale Recommendation Models

Devora Berlowitz
Mei Chen
QiQi Xue
Steve Chien
16th ACM Conference on Recommender Systems (2022)


Embedding-based deep neural networks (DNNs) are widely used in large-scale recommendation systems. Differentially-private stochastic gradient descent (DP-SGD) provides a way to enable personalized experiences while preserving user privacy by injecting noise into every model parameter during the training process. However, it is challenging to apply DP-SGD to large-scale embedding-based DNNs due to its effect on training speed. This happens because the noise added by DP-SGD causes normally sparse gradients to become dense, introducing a large communication overhead between workers and parameter servers in a typical distributed training framework. This paper proposes embedding-aware noise addition (EANA) to mitigate the communication overhead, making training a large-scale embedding-based DNN possible. We examine the privacy benefit of EANA both analytically and empirically using secret sharer techniques. We demonstrate that training with EANA can achieve reasonable model precision while providing good practical privacy protection as measured by the secret sharer tests. Experiments on a real-world, large-scale dataset and model show that EANA is much faster than standard DP-SGD, improving the training speed by 54X and unblocking the training of a large-scale embedding-based DNN with reduced privacy risk.