PPA: Preference Profiling Attack Against Federated Learning

Federated learning (FL) trains a global model across a number of decentralized users, each with a local dataset. Compared to traditional centralized learning, FL does not require direct access to local datasets and thus aims to mitigate data privacy concerns. However, data privacy leakage in FL still exists due to inference attacks, including membership inference, property inference, and data inversion. In this work, we propose a new type of privacy inference attack, coined Preference Profiling Attack (PPA), that accurately profiles the private preferences of a local user, e.g., most liked (disliked) items from the client's online shopping and most common expressions from the user's selfies. In general, PPA can profile top-k (i.e., k = 1, 2, 3 and k = 1 in particular) preferences contingent on the local client (user)'s characteristics. Our key insight is that the gradient variation of a local user's model has a distinguishable sensitivity to the sample proportion of a given class, especially the majority (minority) class. By observing a user model's gradient sensitivity to a class, PPA can profile the sample proportion of the class in the user's local dataset, and thus the user's preference of the class is exposed. The inherent statistical heterogeneity of FL further facilitates PPA. We have extensively evaluated the PPA's effectiveness using four datasets (MNIST, CIFAR10, RAF-DB and Products-10K). Our results show that PPA achieves 90% and 98% top-1 attack accuracy to the MNIST and CIFAR10, respectively. More importantly, in real-world commercial scenarios of shopping (i.e., Products-10K) and social network (i.e., RAF-DB), PPA gains a top-1 attack accuracy of 78% in the former case to infer the most ordered items (i.e., as a commercial competitor), and 88% in the latter case to infer a victim user's most often facial expressions, e.g., disgusted.

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