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The importance of feature preprocessing for differentially private linear optimization

Ziteng Sun · Ananda Theertha Suresh · Aditya Krishna Menon

Halle B #224
[ ]
Tue 7 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT

Abstract: Training machine learning models with differential privacy (DP) has received increasing interest in recent years. One of the most popular algorithms for training differentially private models is differentially private stochastic gradient descent (DPSGD) and its variants, where at each step gradients are clipped and combined with some noise. Given the increasing usage of DPSGD, we ask the question: is DPSGD alone sufficient to find a good minimizer for every dataset under privacy constraints? As a first step towards answering this question, we show that even for the simple case of linear classification, unlike non-private optimization, (private) feature preprocessing is vital for differentially private optimization. In detail, we first show theoretically that there exists an example where without feature preprocessing, DPSGD incurs a privacy error proportional to the maximum norm of features over all samples. We then propose an algorithm called *DPSGD-F*, which combines DPSGD with feature preprocessing and prove that for classification tasks, it incurs a privacy error proportional to the diameter of the features $\max_{x, x' \in D} \|x - x'\|_2$. We then demonstrate the practicality of our algorithm on image classification benchmarks.

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