VeriFi: Towards Verifiable Federated Unlearning

Xiangshan Gao, Xingjun Ma, Jingyi Wang, Youcheng Sun, Bo Li, Shouling Ji, Peng Cheng, Jiming Chen

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Federated learning (FL) is a collaborative learning paradigm where participants jointly train a powerful model without sharing their private data. One desirable property for FL is the implementation of the right to be forgotten (RTBF), i.e., a leaving participant has the right to request to delete its private data from the global model. However, unlearning itself may not be enough to implement RTBF unless the unlearning effect can be independently verified, an important aspect that has been overlooked in the current literature. In this paper, we prompt the concept of verifiable federated unlearning, and propose VeriFi, a unified framework integrating federated unlearning and verification that allows systematic analysis of the unlearning and quantification of its effect, with different combinations of multiple unlearning and verification methods. In VeriFi, the leaving participant is granted the right to verify (RTV), that is, the participant notifies the server before leaving, then actively verifies the unlearning effect in the next few communication rounds. The unlearning is done at the server side immediately after receiving the leaving notification, while the verification is done locally by the leaving participant via two steps: marking (injecting carefully-designed markers to fingerprint the leaver) and checking (examining the change of the global model's performance on the markers). Based on VeriFi, we conduct the first systematic and large-scale study for verifiable federated unlearning, considering 7 unlearning methods and 5 verification methods. Particularly, we propose a more efficient and FL-friendly unlearning method, and two more effective and robust non-invasive-verification methods. We extensively evaluate VeriFi on 7 datasets and 4 types of deep learning models. Our analysis establishes important empirical understandings for more trustworthy federated unlearning.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Mar 2024


  • Federated learning
  • unlearning
  • verification
  • right to be forgotten


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