Justus Mattern


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Membership Inference Attacks against Language Models via Neighbourhood Comparison
Justus Mattern | Fatemehsadat Mireshghallah | Zhijing Jin | Bernhard Schoelkopf | Mrinmaya Sachan | Taylor Berg-Kirkpatrick
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Membership Inference attacks (MIAs) aim to predict whether a data sample was present in the training data of a machine learning model or not, and are widely used for assessing the privacy risks of language models. Most existing attacks rely on the observation that models tend toassign higher probabilities to their training samples than non-training points. However, simple thresholding of the model score in isolation tends to lead to high false-positive rates as it does not account for the intrinsic complexity of a sample. Recent work has demonstrated that reference-based attacks which compare model scores to those obtained from a reference model trained on similar data can substantially improve the performance of MIAs.However, in order to train reference models, attacks of this kind make the strong and arguably unrealistic assumption that an adversary has access to samples closely resembling the original training data. Therefore, we investigate their performance in more realistic scenarios and find that they are highly fragile in relation to the data distribution used to train reference models. To investigate whether this fragility provides a layer of safety, we propose and evaluate neighbourhood attacks, which compare model scores for a given sample to scores of synthetically generated neighbour texts and therefore eliminate the need for access to the training data distribution. We show that, in addition to being competitive with reference-based attacks that have perfect knowledge about the training data distribution, our attack clearly outperforms existing reference-free attacks as well as reference-based attacks with imperfect knowledge, which demonstrates the need for a reevaluation of the threat model of adversarial attacks.


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Measuring the Impact of (Psycho-)Linguistic and Readability Features and Their Spill Over Effects on the Prediction of Eye Movement Patterns
Daniel Wiechmann | Yu Qiao | Elma Kerz | Justus Mattern
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

There is a growing interest in the combined use of NLP and machine learning methods to predict gaze patterns during naturalistic reading. While promising results have been obtained through the use of transformer-based language models, little work has been undertaken to relate the performance of such models to general text characteristics. In this paper we report on experiments with two eye-tracking corpora of naturalistic reading and two language models (BERT and GPT-2). In all experiments, we test effects of a broad spectrum of features for predicting human reading behavior that fall into five categories (syntactic complexity, lexical richness, register-based multiword combinations, readability and psycholinguistic word properties). Our experiments show that both the features included and the architecture of the transformer-based language models play a role in predicting multiple eye-tracking measures during naturalistic reading. We also report the results of experiments aimed at determining the relative importance of features from different groups using SP-LIME.

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Differentially Private Language Models for Secure Data Sharing
Justus Mattern | Zhijing Jin | Benjamin Weggenmann | Bernhard Schoelkopf | Mrinmaya Sachan
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

To protect the privacy of individuals whose data is being shared, it is of high importance to develop methods allowing researchers and companies to release textual data while providing formal privacy guarantees to its originators. In the field of NLP, substantial efforts have been directed at building mechanisms following the framework of local differential privacy, thereby anonymizing individual text samples before releasing them. In practice, these approaches are often dissatisfying in terms of the quality of their output language due to the strong noise required for local differential privacy. In this paper, we approach the problem at hand using global differential privacy, particularly by training a generative language model in a differentially private manner and consequently sampling data from it. Using natural language prompts and a new prompt-mismatch loss, we are able to create highly accurate and fluent textual datasets taking on specific desired attributes such as sentiment or topic and resembling statistical properties of the training data. We perform thorough experiments indicating that our synthetic datasets do not leak information from our original data and are of high language quality and highly suitable for training models for further analysis on real-world data. Notably, we also demonstrate that training classifiers on private synthetic data outperforms directly training classifiers with DP-SGD.

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The Limits of Word Level Differential Privacy
Justus Mattern | Benjamin Weggenmann | Florian Kerschbaum
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

As the issues of privacy and trust are receiving increasing attention within the research community, various attempts have been made to anonymize textual data. A significant subset of these approaches incorporate differentially private mechanims to perturb word embeddings, thus replacing individual words in a sentence. While these methods represent very important contributions, have various advantages over other techniques and do show anonymization capabilities,they have several shortcomings. In this paper, we investigate these weaknesses and demonstrate significant mathematical constraints diminishing the theoretical privacy guaranteeas well as major practical shortcomings with regard to the protection against deanonymization attacks, the preservation of content of the original sentences as well as the quality of the language output. Finally, we propose a new method for text anonymization based on transformer based language models fine-tuned for paraphrasing that circumvents most of the identified weaknesses and also offers a formal privacy guarantee. We evaluate the performance of our method via thourough experimentation and demonstrate superior performance over the discussed mechanisms.


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FANG-COVID: A New Large-Scale Benchmark Dataset for Fake News Detection in German
Justus Mattern | Yu Qiao | Elma Kerz | Daniel Wiechmann | Markus Strohmaier
Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on Fact Extraction and VERification (FEVER)

As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it is simultaneously fighting an ‘infodemic’ – a flood of disinformation and spread of conspiracy theories leading to health threats and the division of society. To combat this infodemic, there is an urgent need for benchmark datasets that can help researchers develop and evaluate models geared towards automatic detection of disinformation. While there are increasing efforts to create adequate, open-source benchmark datasets for English, comparable resources are virtually unavailable for German, leaving research for the German language lagging significantly behind. In this paper, we introduce the new benchmark dataset FANG-COVID consisting of 28,056 real and 13,186 fake German news articles related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as data on their propagation on Twitter. Furthermore, we propose an explainable textual- and social context-based model for fake news detection, compare its performance to “black-box” models and perform feature ablation to assess the relative importance of human-interpretable features in distinguishing fake news from authentic news.