SecretGen: Privacy Recovery on Pre-trained Models via Distribution Discrimination

Zhuowen Yuan, Fan Wu, Yunhui Long, Chaowei Xiao, Bo Li

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Transfer learning through the use of pre-trained models has become a growing trend for the machine learning community. Consequently, numerous pre-trained models are released online to facilitate further research. However, it raises extensive concerns on whether these pre-trained models would leak privacy-sensitive information of their training data. Thus, in this work, we aim to answer the following questions: “Can we effectively recover private information from these pre-trained models? What are the sufficient conditions to retrieve such sensitive information?” We first explore different statistical information which can discriminate the private training distribution from other distributions. Based on our observations, we propose a novel private data reconstruction framework, SecretGen, to effectively recover private information. Compared with previous methods which can recover private data with the ground truth label of the targeted recovery instance, SecretGen does not require such prior knowledge, making it more practical. We conduct extensive experiments on different datasets under diverse scenarios to compare SecretGen with other baselines and provide a systematic benchmark to better understand the impact of different auxiliary information and optimization operations. We show that without prior knowledge about true class prediction, SecretGen is able to recover private data with similar performance compared with the ones that leverage such prior knowledge. If the prior knowledge is given, SecretGen will significantly outperform baseline methods. We also propose several quantitative metrics to further quantify the privacy vulnerability of pre-trained models, which will help the model selection for privacy-sensitive applications. Our code is available at:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationComputer Vision – ECCV 2022 - 17th European Conference, Proceedings
EditorsShai Avidan, Gabriel Brostow, Moustapha Cissé, Giovanni Maria Farinella, Tal Hassner
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9783031200649
StatePublished - 2022
Event17th European Conference on Computer Vision, ECCV 2022 - Tel Aviv, Israel
Duration: Oct 23 2022Oct 27 2022

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume13665 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference17th European Conference on Computer Vision, ECCV 2022
CityTel Aviv


  • Pre-trained models
  • Privacy
  • Transfer learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)


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