Providing privacy protection has been one of the primary motivations of Federated Learning (FL). Recently, there has been a line of work on incorporating the formal privacy notion of differential privacy with FL. To guarantee the client-level differential privacy in FL algorithms, the clients’ transmitted model updates have to be clipped before adding privacy noise. Such clipping operation is substantially different from its counterpart of gradient clipping in the centralized differentially private SGD and has not been well-understood. In this paper, we first empirically demonstrate that the clipped FedAvg can perform surprisingly well even with substantial data heterogeneity when training neural networks, which is partly because the clients’ updates become similar for several popular deep architectures. Based on this key observation, we provide the convergence analysis of a differential private (DP) FedAvg algorithm and highlight the relationship between clipping bias and the distribution of the clients’ updates. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work that rigorously investigates theoretical and empirical issues regarding the clipping operation in FL algorithms.
FedNLP: Benchmarking Federated Learning Methods for Natural Language Processing Tasks
Increasing concerns and regulations about data privacy and sparsity necessitate the study of privacy-preserving, decentralized learning methods for natural language processing (NLP) tasks. Federated learning (FL) provides promising approaches for a large number of clients (e.g., personal devices or organizations) to collaboratively learn a shared global model to benefit all clients while allowing users to keep their data locally. Despite interest in studying FL methods for NLP tasks, a systematic comparison and analysis is lacking in the literature. Herein, we present the FedNLP, a benchmarking framework for evaluating federated learning methods on four different task formulations: text classification, sequence tagging, question answering, and seq2seq. We propose a universal interface between Transformer-based language models (e.g., BERT, BART) and FL methods (e.g., FedAvg, FedOPT, etc.) under various non-IID partitioning strategies. Our extensive experiments with FedNLP provide empirical comparisons between FL methods and helps us better understand the inherent challenges of this direction. The comprehensive analysis points to intriguing and exciting future research aimed at developing FL methods for NLP tasks.
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