Collaborating Authors

Smith, Virginia

Federated Multi-Task Learning for Competing Constraints Machine Learning

In addition to accuracy, fairness and robustness are two critical concerns for federated learning systems. In this work, we first identify that robustness to adversarial training-time attacks and fairness, measured as the uniformity of performance across devices, are competing constraints in statistically heterogeneous networks. To address these constraints, we propose employing a simple, general multi-task learning objective, and analyze the ability of the objective to achieve a favorable tradeoff between fairness and robustness. We develop a scalable solver for the objective and show that multi-task learning can enable more accurate, robust, and fair models relative to state-of-the-art baselines across a suite of federated datasets.

Is Support Set Diversity Necessary for Meta-Learning? Machine Learning

Meta-learning is a popular framework for learning with limited data in which an algorithm is produced by training over multiple few-shot learning tasks. For classification problems, these tasks are typically constructed by sampling a small number of support and query examples from a subset of the classes. While conventional wisdom is that task diversity should improve the performance of meta-learning, in this work we find evidence to the contrary: we propose a modification to traditional meta-learning approaches in which we keep the support sets fixed across tasks, thus reducing task diversity. Surprisingly, we find that not only does this modification not result in adverse effects, it almost always improves the performance for a variety of datasets and meta-learning methods. We also provide several initial analyses to understand this phenomenon. Our work serves to: (i) more closely investigate the effect of support set construction for the problem of meta-learning, and (ii) suggest a simple, general, and competitive baseline for few-shot learning.

Tilted Empirical Risk Minimization Machine Learning

Empirical risk minimization (ERM) is typically designed to perform well on the average loss, which can result in estimators that are sensitive to outliers, generalize poorly, or treat subgroups unfairly. While many methods aim to address these problems individually, in this work, we explore them through a unified framework---tilted empirical risk minimization (TERM). In particular, we show that it is possible to flexibly tune the impact of individual losses through a straightforward extension to ERM using a hyperparameter called the tilt. We provide several interpretations of the resulting framework: We show that TERM can increase or decrease the influence of outliers, respectively, to enable fairness or robustness; has variance-reduction properties that can benefit generalization; and can be viewed as a smooth approximation to a superquantile method. We develop batch and stochastic first-order optimization methods for solving TERM, and show that the problem can be efficiently solved relative to common alternatives. Finally, we demonstrate that TERM can be used for a multitude of applications, such as enforcing fairness between subgroups, mitigating the effect of outliers, and handling class imbalance. TERM is not only competitive with existing solutions tailored to these individual problems, but can also enable entirely new applications, such as simultaneously addressing outliers and promoting fairness.

Federated Multi-Task Learning

Neural Information Processing Systems

Federated learning poses new statistical and systems challenges in training machine learning models over distributed networks of devices. In this work, we show that multi-task learning is naturally suited to handle the statistical challenges of this setting, and propose a novel systems-aware optimization method, MOCHA, that is robust to practical systems issues. Our method and theory for the first time consider issues of high communication cost, stragglers, and fault tolerance for distributed multi-task learning. The resulting method achieves significant speedups compared to alternatives in the federated setting, as we demonstrate through simulations on real-world federated datasets. Papers published at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.

Communication-Efficient Distributed Dual Coordinate Ascent

Neural Information Processing Systems

Communication remains the most significant bottleneck in the performance of distributed optimization algorithms for large-scale machine learning. In this paper, we propose a communication-efficient framework, COCOA, that uses local computation in a primal-dual setting to dramatically reduce the amount of necessary communication. We provide a strong convergence rate analysis for this class of algorithms, as well as experiments on real-world distributed datasets with implementations in Spark. In our experiments, we find that as compared to state-of-the-art mini-batch versions of SGD and SDCA algorithms, COCOA converges to the same .001-accurate Papers published at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.

FedDANE: A Federated Newton-Type Method Machine Learning

Federated learning aims to jointly learn statistical models over massively distributed remote devices. In this work, we propose FedDANE, an optimization method that we adapt from DANE, a method for classical distributed optimization, to handle the practical constraints of federated learning. We provide convergence guarantees for this method when learning over both convex and non-convex functions. Despite encouraging theoretical results, we find that the method has underwhelming performance empirically. In particular, through empirical simulations on both synthetic and real-world datasets, FedDANE consistently underperforms baselines of FedAvg and FedProx in realistic federated settings. We identify low device participation and statistical device heterogeneity as two underlying causes of this underwhelming performance, and conclude by suggesting several directions of future work.

Enhancing the Privacy of Federated Learning with Sketching Machine Learning

In response to growing concerns about user privacy, federated learning has emerged as a promising tool to train statistical models over networks of devices while keeping data localized. Federated learning methods run training tasks directly on user devices and do not share the raw user data with third parties. However, current methods still share model updates, which may contain private information (e.g., one's weight and height), during the training process. Existing efforts that aim to improve the privacy of federated learning make compromises in one or more of the following key areas: performance (particularly communication cost), accuracy, or privacy. To better optimize these trade-offs, we propose that \textit{sketching algorithms} have a unique advantage in that they can provide both privacy and performance benefits while maintaining accuracy. We evaluate the feasibility of sketching-based federated learning with a prototype on three representative learning models. Our initial findings show that it is possible to provide strong privacy guarantees for federated learning without sacrificing performance or accuracy. Our work highlights that there exists a fundamental connection between privacy and communication in distributed settings, and suggests important open problems surrounding the theoretical understanding, methodology, and system design of practical, private federated learning.

Privacy for Free: Communication-Efficient Learning with Differential Privacy Using Sketches Machine Learning

Communication and privacy are two critical concerns in distributed learning. Many existing works treat these concerns separately. In this work, we argue that a natural connection exists between methods for communication reduction and privacy preservation in the context of distributed machine learning. In particular, we prove that Count Sketch, a simple method for data stream summarization, has inherent differential privacy properties. Using these derived privacy guarantees, we propose a novel sketch-based framework (DiffSketch) for distributed learning, where we compress the transmitted messages via sketches to simultaneously achieve communication efficiency and provable privacy benefits. Our evaluation demonstrates that DiffSketch can provide strong differential privacy guarantees (e.g., $\varepsilon$= 1) and reduce communication by 20-50x with only marginal decreases in accuracy. Compared to baselines that treat privacy and communication separately, DiffSketch improves absolute test accuracy by 5%-50% while offering the same privacy guarantees and communication compression.

Progressive Compressed Records: Taking a Byte out of Deep Learning Data Machine Learning

Deep learning training accesses vast amounts of data at high velocity, posing challenges for datasets retrieved over commodity networks and storage devices. We introduce a way to dynamically reduce the overhead of fetching and transporting training data with a method we term Progressive Compressed Records (PCRs). PCRs deviate from previous formats by using progressive compression to convert a single dataset into multiple datasets of increasing fidelity--all without adding to the total dataset size. Empirically, we implement PCRs and evaluate them on a wide range of datasets: ImageNet, HAM10000, Stanford Cars, and CelebA-HQ. Our results show that different tasks can tolerate different levels of compression. PCRs use an on-disk layout that enables applications to efficiently and dynamically access appropriate levels of compression at runtime. In turn, we demonstrate that PCRs can seamlessly enable a 2 speedup in training time on average over baseline formats. Distributed deep learning exploits parallelism to reduce training time, and consists of three key components: the data pipeline (storage), the forward/backward computation (compute), and the variable synchronization (network). However, little attention has been paid toward scaling the storage layer, where training starts and training data is sourced. Unfortunately, hardware trends point to an increasing divide between compute and networking or storage bandwidth (Li et al., 2016; Lim et al., 2019; Kurth et al., 2018). For example, the transportation of data for machine learning is a key factor in the design of modern data centers (Hazelwood et al., 2018), which are expected to be serviced by slow, yet high capacity, storage media for the foreseeable future (David Reinsel, 2018; Cheng et al., 2015; Rosenthal et al., 2012). This, combined with the memory wall--a lack of bandwidth between compute and memory--suggests that, while computation may be sufficient moving forward, the mechanisms for moving data to the compute may not (Wulf & McKee, 1995; Kwon & Rhu, 2018; Hsieh et al., 2017; Zinkevich et al., 2010). The storage pipeline is therefore a natural area to seek improvements in overall training times, which manifest from the storage medium, through the network, and into the compute nodes.

Federated Learning: Challenges, Methods, and Future Directions Machine Learning

Federated learning involves training statistical models over remote devices or siloed data centers, such as mobile phones or hospitals, while keeping data localized. Training in heterogeneous and potentially massive networks introduces novel challenges that require a fundamental departure from standard approaches for large-scale machine learning, distributed optimization, and privacy-preserving data analysis. In this article, we discuss the unique characteristics and challenges of federated learning, provide a broad overview of current approaches, and outline several directions of future work that are relevant to a wide range of research communities.