Ethicist: Targeted Training Data Extraction Through Loss Smoothed Soft Prompting and Calibrated Confidence Estimation

10 Jul 2023  ·  Zhexin Zhang, Jiaxin Wen, Minlie Huang ·

Large pre-trained language models achieve impressive results across many tasks. However, recent works point out that pre-trained language models may memorize a considerable fraction of their training data, leading to the privacy risk of information leakage. In this paper, we propose a method named Ethicist for targeted training data extraction through loss smoothed soft prompting and calibrated confidence estimation, investigating how to recover the suffix in the training data when given a prefix. To elicit memorization in the attacked model, we tune soft prompt embeddings while keeping the model fixed. We further propose a smoothing loss that smooths the loss distribution of the suffix tokens to make it easier to sample the correct suffix. In order to select the most probable suffix from a collection of sampled suffixes and estimate the prediction confidence, we propose a calibrated confidence estimation method, which normalizes the confidence of the generated suffixes with a local estimation. We show that Ethicist significantly improves the extraction performance on a recently proposed public benchmark. We also investigate several factors influencing the data extraction performance, including decoding strategy, model scale, prefix length, and suffix length. Our code is available at

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