Safe Distillation Box


  • Jingwen Ye Zhejiang University National University of Singapore
  • Yining Mao Zhejiang University
  • Jie Song Zhejiang University
  • Xinchao Wang National University of Singapore
  • Cheng Jin Fudan University
  • Mingli Song Zhejiang University Alibaba-Zhejiang University Joint Research Institute of Frontier Technologies



Computer Vision (CV), Machine Learning (ML)


Knowledge distillation (KD) has recently emerged as a powerful strategy to transfer knowledge from a pre-trained teacher model to a lightweight student, and has demonstrated its unprecedented success over a wide spectrum of applications. In spite of the encouraging results, the KD process \emph{per se} poses a potential threat to network ownership protection, since the knowledge contained in network can be effortlessly distilled and hence exposed to a malicious user. In this paper, we propose a novel framework, termed as Safe Distillation Box~(SDB), that allows us to wrap a pre-trained model in a virtual box for intellectual property protection. Specifically, SDB preserves the inference capability of the wrapped model to all users, but precludes KD from unauthorized users. For authorized users, on the other hand, SDB carries out a knowledge augmentation scheme to strengthen the KD performances and the results of the student model. In other words, all users may employ a model in SDB for inference, but only authorized users get access to KD from the model. The proposed SDB imposes no constraints over the model architecture, and may readily serve as a plug-and-play solution to protect the ownership of a pre-trained network. Experiments across various datasets and architectures demonstrate that, with SDB, the performance of an unauthorized KD drops significantly while that of an authorized gets enhanced, demonstrating the effectiveness of SDB.




How to Cite

Ye, J., Mao, Y., Song, J., Wang, X., Jin, C., & Song, M. (2022). Safe Distillation Box. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 36(3), 3117-3124.



AAAI Technical Track on Computer Vision III