DP-ImgSyn: Dataset Alignment for Obfuscated, Differentially Private Image Synthesis

Efstathia Soufleri · Deepak Ravikumar · Kaushik Roy


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The availability of abundant data has catalyzed the expansion of deep learning vision algorithms. However, certain vision datasets cannot be publicly released due to privacy reasons. Releasing synthetic images instead of private images is a common approach to overcome this issue. A popular method to generate synthetic images is using Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) with Differential Privacy (DP) guarantees. However, GAN-generated synthetic images are visually similar to private images. This is a severe limitation, particularly when the private dataset depicts visually sensitive and disturbing content. To address this, we propose a non-generative framework, Differentially Private Image Synthesis (DP-ImgSyn), to generate and release synthetic images for image classification tasks. These synthetic images: (1) have DP guarantees, (2) retain the utility of the private images, i.e., a model trained using synthetic images results in similar accuracy as a model trained on private images, (3) the synthetic images are visually dissimilar to private images. DP-ImgSyn consists of the following steps: First, a teacher model is trained on the private images using a DP training algorithm. Second, public images are used as initialization for the synthetic images which are optimized to align them with the private images. The optimization uses the teacher network's batch normalization layer statistics (mean, standard deviation) to inject information about the private images into the synthetic images. Third, the synthetic images and their soft labels, obtained from the teacher model, are released and can be deployed for neural network training on image classification tasks. Our experiments on various image classification datasets show that when using similar DP training mechanisms, our framework performs better than generative techniques (up to $\approx$ 20% in terms of image classification accuracy).