VF-PS: How to Select Important Participants in Vertical Federated Learning, Efficiently and Securely?

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Jiawei Jiang, Lukas Burkhalter, Fangcheng Fu, Bolin Ding, Bo Du, Anwar Hithnawi, Bo Li, Ce Zhang


Vertical Federated Learning (VFL), that trains federated models over vertically partitioned data, has emerged as an important learning paradigm. However, existing VFL methods are facing two challenges: (1) scalability when # participants grows to even modest scale and (2) diminishing return w.r.t. # participants: not all participants are equally important and many will not introduce quality improvement in a large consortium. Inspired by these two challenges, in this paper, we ask: How can we select l out of m participants, where l ≪ m, that are most important?We call this problem Vertically Federated Participant Selection, and model it with a principled mutual information-based view. Our first technical contribution is VF-MINE—a Vertically Federated Mutual INformation Estimator—that uses one of the most celebrated algorithms in database theory—Fagin’s algorithm as a building block. Our second contribution is to further optimize VF-MINE to enable VF-PS, a group testing-based participant selection framework. We empirically show that vertically federated participation selection can be orders of magnitude faster than training a full-fledged VFL model, while being able to identify the most important subset of participants that often lead to a VFL model of similar quality.