Machine Unlearning


Once users have shared their data online, it is generally difficult for them to revoke access and ask for the data to be deleted. Machine learning (ML) exacerbates this problem because any model trained with said data may have memorized it, putting users at risk of a successful privacy attack exposing their information. Yet, having models unlearn is notoriously difficult. After a data point is removed from a training set, one often resorts to entirely retraining downstream models from scratch. We introduce SISA training, a framework that decreases the number of model parameters affected by an unlearning request and caches intermediate outputs of the training algorithm to limit the number of model updates that need to be computed to have these parameters unlearn. This framework reduces the computational overhead associated with unlearning, even in the worst-case setting where unlearning requests are made uniformly across the training set. In some cases, we may have a prior on the distribution of unlearning requests that will be issued by users. We may take this prior into account to partition and order data accordingly and further decrease overhead from unlearning. Our evaluation spans two datasets from different application domains, with corresponding motivations for unlearning. Under no distributional assumptions, we observe that SISA training improves unlearning for the Purchase dataset by 3.13x, and 1.658x for the SVHN dataset, over retraining from scratch. We also validate how knowledge of the unlearning distribution provides further improvements in retraining time by simulating a scenario where we model unlearning requests that come from users of a commercial product that is available in countries with varying sensitivity to privacy. Our work contributes to practical data governance in machine learning.

Proceedings of the 42nd IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy