Yangsibo Huang


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Privacy Implications of Retrieval-Based Language Models
Yangsibo Huang | Samyak Gupta | Zexuan Zhong | Kai Li | Danqi Chen
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Retrieval-based language models (LMs) have demonstrated improved interpretability, factuality, and adaptability compared to their parametric counterparts by incorporating retrieved text from external datastores. While it is well known that parametric models are prone to leaking private data, it remains unclear how the addition of a retrieval datastore impacts model privacy. In this work, we present the first study of privacy risks in retrieval-based LMs, particularly kNN-LMs. Our goal is to explore the optimal design and training procedure in domains where privacy is of concern, aiming to strike a balance between utility and privacy. Crucially, we find that kNN-LMs are more susceptible to leaking private information from their private datastore than parametric models. We further explore mitigations of privacy risks: When privacy information is targeted and readily detected in the text, we find that a simple sanitization step would eliminate the risks while decoupling query and key encoders achieves an even better utility-privacy trade-off. Otherwise, we consider strategies of mixing public and private data in both datastore and encoder training. While these methods offer modest improvements, they leave considerable room for future work. Together, our findings provide insights for practitioners to better understand and mitigate privacy risks in retrieval-based LMs.


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TextHide: Tackling Data Privacy in Language Understanding Tasks
Yangsibo Huang | Zhao Song | Danqi Chen | Kai Li | Sanjeev Arora
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

An unsolved challenge in distributed or federated learning is to effectively mitigate privacy risks without slowing down training or reducing accuracy. In this paper, we propose TextHide aiming at addressing this challenge for natural language understanding tasks. It requires all participants to add a simple encryption step to prevent an eavesdropping attacker from recovering private text data. Such an encryption step is efficient and only affects the task performance slightly. In addition, TextHide fits well with the popular framework of fine-tuning pre-trained language models (e.g., BERT) for any sentence or sentence-pair task. We evaluate TextHide on the GLUE benchmark, and our experiments show that TextHide can effectively defend attacks on shared gradients or representations and the averaged accuracy reduction is only 1.9%. We also present an analysis of the security of TextHide using a conjecture about the computational intractability of a mathematical problem.