Keywords: differential privacy, large language models, fine-tuning
Abstract: We give simpler, sparser, and faster algorithms for differentially private fine-tuning of large-scale pre-trained language models, which achieve the state-of-the-art privacy versus utility tradeoffs on many standard NLP tasks. We propose a meta-framework for this problem, inspired by the recent success of highly parameter-efficient methods for fine-tuning. Our experiments show that differentially private adaptations of these approaches outperform previous private algorithms in three important dimensions: utility, privacy, and the computational and memory cost of private training. On many commonly studied datasets, the utility of private models approaches that of non-private models. For example, on the MNLI dataset we achieve an accuracy of $87.8\%$ using RoBERTa-Large and $83.5\%$ using RoBERTa-Base with a privacy budget of $\epsilon = 6.7$. In comparison, absent privacy constraints, RoBERTa-Large achieves an accuracy of $90.2\%$. Our findings are similar for natural language generation when privately fine-tuning GPT-2. Our experiments also show that larger models are better suited for private fine-tuning: while they are well known to achieve superior accuracy non-privately, we find that they also better maintain their accuracy when privacy is introduced.
One-sentence Summary: We show that by combining recent advances in NLP, parameter-efficiency, privacy accounting, and using larger models, one can privately fine-tune models whose utility approaches that of non-private models.