CryptoTL: Private, efficient and secure transfer learning


Big data has been a pervasive catchphrase in recent years, but dealing with data scarcity has become a crucial question for many real-world deep learning (DL) applications. A popular methodology to efficiently enable the training of DL models to perform tasks in scenarios where only a small dataset is available is transfer learning (TL). TL allows knowledge transfer from a general domain to a specific target one; however, such a knowledge transfer may put privacy at risk when it comes to sensitive or private data. With CryptoTL we introduce a solution to this problem, and show for the first time a cryptographic privacy-preserving TL approach based on homomorphic encryption that is efficient and feasible for real-world use cases. We demonstrate this by focusing on classification tasks with small datasets and show the applicability of our approach for sentiment analysis. Additionally we highlight how our approach can be combined with differential privacy to further increase the security guarantees. Our extensive benchmarks show that using CryptoTL leads to high accuracy while still having practical fine-tuning and classification runtimes despite using homomorphic encryption. Concretely, one forward-pass through the encrypted layers of our setup takes roughly 1s on a notebook CPU.