A Randomized Approach to Tight Privacy Accounting

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Jiachen (Tianhao) Wang, Saeed Mahloujifar, Tong Wu, Ruoxi Jia, Prateek Mittal


Bounding privacy leakage over compositions, i.e., privacy accounting, is a key challenge in differential privacy (DP). However, the privacy parameter ($\varepsilon$ or $\delta$) is often easy to estimate but hard to bound. In this paper, we propose a new differential privacy paradigm called estimate-verify-release (EVR), which tackles the challenges of providing a strict upper bound for the privacy parameter in DP compositions by converting an *estimate* of privacy parameter into a formal guarantee. The EVR paradigm first verifies whether the mechanism meets the *estimated* privacy guarantee, and then releases the query output based on the verification result. The core component of the EVR is privacy verification. We develop a randomized privacy verifier using Monte Carlo (MC) technique. Furthermore, we propose an MC-based DP accountant that outperforms existing DP accounting techniques in terms of accuracy and efficiency. MC-based DP verifier and accountant is applicable to an important and commonly used class of DP algorithms, including the famous DP-SGD. An empirical evaluation shows the proposed EVR paradigm improves the utility-privacy tradeoff for privacy-preserving machine learning.