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Measure Privacy

Differential privacy is a framework for measuring the privacy guarantees provided by an algorithm and can be expressed using the values ε (epsilon) and δ (delta). Of the two, ε is more important and more sensitive to the choice of hyperparameters. Roughly speaking, they mean the following:

  • ε gives a ceiling on how much the probability of a particular output can increase by including (or removing) a single training example. You usually want it to be a small constant (less than 10, or for more stringent privacy guarantees, less than 1). However, this is only an upper bound, and a large value of epsilon may still mean good practical privacy.
  • δ bounds the probability of an arbitrary change in model behavior. You can usually set this to a very small number (1e-7 or so) without compromising utility. A rule of thumb is to set it to be less than the inverse of the training data size.

The relationship between training hyperparameters and the resulting privacy in terms of (ε, δ) is complicated and tricky to state explicitly. Our current recommended approach is at the bottom of the Get Started page, which involves finding the maximum noise multiplier one can use while still having reasonable utility, and then scaling the noise multiplier and number of microbatches. TensorFlow Privacy provides a tool, compute_dp_sgd_privacy to compute (ε, δ) based on the noise multiplier σ, the number of training steps taken, and the fraction of input data consumed at each step. The amount of privacy increases with the noise multiplier σ and decreases the more times the data is used on training. Generally, in order to achieve an epsilon of at most 10.0, we need to set the noise multiplier to around 0.3 to 0.5, depending on the dataset size and number of epochs. See the classification privacy tutorial to see the approach.

For more detail, see the original DP-SGD paper.

You can use compute_dp_sgd_privacy to find out the epsilon given a fixed delta value for your model [../tutorials/classification_privacy.ipynb]:

  • q : the sampling ratio - the probability of an individual training point being included in a mini batch (batch_size/number_of_examples).
  • noise_multiplier : A float that governs the amount of noise added during training. Generally, more noise results in better privacy and lower utility.
  • steps : The number of global steps taken.

A detailed writeup of the theory behind the computation of epsilon and delta is available at Differential Privacy of the Sampled Gaussian Mechanism.