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The Secret Sharer: Evaluating and Testing Unintended Memorization in Neural Networks

Chang Liu
Jernej Kos
Úlfar Erlingsson
Dawn Song
USENIX Security (2019) (to appear)
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This paper describes a testing methodology for quantitatively assessing the risk of \emph{unintended memorization} of rare or unique sequences in generative sequence models---a common type of neural network. Such models are sometimes trained on sensitive data (e.g., the text of users' private messages); our methodology allows deep-learning to choose configurations that minimize memorization during training, thereby benefiting privacy. In experiments, we show that unintended memorization is a persistent, hard-to-avoid issue that can have serious consequences. Specifically, if not addressed during training, we show that new, efficient procedures can allow extracting unique, secret sequences such as credit card numbers from trained models. We also show that our testing strategy is practical and easy-to-apply, e.g., by describing its use for quantitatively preventing data exposure in a production, commercial neural network---a predictive email-composition assistant trained on millions of users' email messages.