Google Research

Revealing and Protecting Labels in Distributed Training

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34: Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems 2021, NeurIPS 2021, December 6-14, 2021, virtual, pp. 1727-1738


Distributed learning paradigms such as federated learning often involve transmission of model updates, or gradients, over a network, thereby avoiding transmission of private data. However, it is possible for sensitive information about the training data to be revealed from such gradients. Prior works have demonstrated that labels can be revealed analytically from the last layer of certain models (e.g., ResNet), or they can be reconstructed jointly with model inputs by using Gradients Matching [Zhu et al.] with additional knowledge about the current state of the model. In this work, we propose a method to discover the set of labels of training samples from only the gradient of the last layer and the id to label mapping. Our method is applicable to a wide variety of model architectures across multiple domains. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method for model training in two domains - image classification, and automatic speech recognition. Furthermore, we show that existing reconstruction techniques improve their efficacy when used in conjunction with our method. Conversely, we demonstrate that gradient quantization and sparsification can significantly reduce the success of the attack.

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