A Unified Solution for Privacy and Communication Efficiency in Vertical Federated Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Ganyu Wang, Bin Gu, Qingsong Zhang, Xiang Li, Boyu Wang, Charles X. Ling


Vertical Federated Learning (VFL) is a collaborative machine learning paradigm that enables multiple participants to jointly train a model on their private data without sharing it.To make VFL practical, privacy security and communication efficiency should both be satisfied. Recent research has shown that Zero-Order Optimization (ZOO) in VFL can effectively conceal the internal information of the model without adding costly privacy protective add-ons, making it a promising approach for privacy and efficiency.However, there are still two key problems that have yet to be resolved. First, the convergence rate of ZOO-based VFL is significantly slower compared to gradient-based VFL, resulting in low efficiency in model training and more communication round, which hinders its application on large neural networks. Second, although ZOO-based VFL has demonstrated resistance to state-of-the-art (SOTA) attacks, its privacy guarantee lacks a theoretical explanation.To address these challenges, we propose a novel cascaded hybrid optimization approach that employs a zeroth-order (ZO) gradient on the most critical output layer of the clients, with other parts utilizing the first-order (FO) gradient. This approach preserves the privacy protection of ZOO while significantly enhancing convergence.Moreover, we theoretically prove that applying ZOO to the VFL is equivalent to adding Gaussian Mechanism to the gradient information, which offers an implicit differential privacy guarantee. Experimental results demonstrate that our proposed framework achieves similar utility as the Gaussian mechanism under the same privacy budget, while also having significantly lower communication costs compared with SOTA communication-efficient VFL frameworks.