In large-scale statistical learning, data collection and model fitting are moving increasingly toward peripheral devices—phones, watches, fitness trackers—away from centralized data collection. Concomitant with this rise in decentralized data are increasing challenges of maintaining privacy while allowing enough information to fit accurate, useful statistical models. This motivates local notions of privacy—most significantly, local differential privacy, which provides strong protections against sensitive data disclosures—where data is obfuscated before a statistician or learner can even observe it, providing strong protections to individuals' data. Yet local privacy as traditionally employed may prove too stringent for practical use, especially in modern high-dimensional statistical and machine learning problems. Consequently, we revisit the types of disclosures and adversaries against which we provide protections, considering adversaries with limited prior information and ensuring that with high probability, ensuring they cannot reconstruct an individual's data within useful tolerances. By reconceptualizing these protections, we allow more useful data release—large privacy parameters in local differential privacy—and we design new (minimax) optimal locally differentially private mechanisms for statistical learning problems for all privacy levels. We thus present practicable approaches to large-scale locally private model training that were previously impossible, showing theoretically and empirically that we can fit large-scale image classification and language models with little degradation in utility.
Related readings and updates.
Earlier this year, Apple hosted the Workshop on Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning (PPML). This virtual event brought Apple and members of the academic research communities together to discuss the state of the art in the field of privacy-preserving machine learning through a series of talks and discussions over two days.