Unveiling Memorization in Code Models

Zhou Yang, Zhipeng Zhao, Chenyu Wang, Jieke Shi, Dongsun Kim, DongGyun Han, David Lo

Research output: Working paperPreprint


The availability of large-scale datasets, advanced architectures, and powerful computational resources have led to effective code models that automate diverse software engineering activities. The datasets usually consist of billions of lines of code from both open-source and private repositories. A code model memorizes and produces source code verbatim, which potentially contains vulnerabilities, sensitive information, or code with strict licenses, leading to potential security and privacy issues. This paper investigates an important problem: to what extent do code models memorize their training data? We conduct an empirical study to explore memorization in large pre-trained code models. Our study highlights that simply extracting 20,000 outputs (each having 512 tokens) from a code model can produce over 40,125 code snippets that are memorized from the training data. To provide a better understanding, we build a taxonomy of memorized contents with 3 categories and 14 subcategories. The results show that the prompts sent to the code models affect the distribution of memorized contents. We identify several key factors of memorization. Specifically, given the same architecture, larger models suffer more from memorization problems. A code model produces more memorization when it is allowed to generate longer outputs. We also find a strong positive correlation between the number of an output's occurrences in the training data and that in the generated outputs, which indicates that a potential way to reduce memorization is to remove duplicates in the training data. We then identify effective metrics that infer whether an output contains memorization accurately. We also make suggestions to deal with memorization.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings of the IEEE/ACM 46th International Conference on Software Engineering
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery


  • cs.SE

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