Privacy and Fairness

Jun 13, 2019



On Sparse Linear Regression in the Local Differential Privacy Model In this paper, we study the sparse linear regression problem under the Local Differential Privacy (LDP) model. We first show that polynomial dependency on the dimensionality p of the space is unavoidable for the estimation error in both non-interactive and sequential interactive local models, if the privacy of the whole dataset needs to be preserved. Similar limitations also exist for other types of error measurements and in the relaxed local models. This indicates that differential privacy in high dimensional space is unlikely achievable for the problem. With the understanding of this limitation, we then present two algorithmic results. The first one is a sequential interactive LDP algorithm for the low dimensional sparse case, called Locally Differentially Private Iterative Hard Thresholding (LDP-IHT), which achieves a near optimal upper bound. This algorithm is actually rather general and can be used to solve quite a few other problems, such as (Local) DP-ERM with sparsity constraints and sparse regression with non-linear measurements. The second one is for the restricted (high dimensional) case where only the privacy of the responses (labels) needs to be preserved. For this case, we show that the optimal rate of the error estimation can be made logarithmically depending on p (i.e., logp) in the local model, where an upper bound is obtained by a label-privacy version of LDP-IHT. Experiments on real world and synthetic datasets confirm our theoretical analysis. Differentially Private Empirical Risk Minimization with Non-convex Loss Functions We study the problem of Empirical Risk Minimization (ERM) with (smooth) non-convex loss functions under the differential-privacy (DP) model. Existing approaches for this problem mainly adopt gradient norms to measure the error, which in general cannot guarantee the quality of the solution. To address this issue, we first study the expected excess empirical (or population) risk, which was primarily used as the utility to measure the quality for convex loss functions. Specifically, we show that the excess empirical (or population) risk can be upper bounded by ~O(dlog(1/δ)lognϵ2) in the (ϵ,δ)-DP settings, where n is the data size and d is the dimensionality of the space. The 1logn term in the empirical risk bound can be further improved to 1nΩ(1) (when d is a constant) by a highly non-trivial analysis on the time-average error. To obtain more efficient solutions, we also consider the connection between achieving differential privacy and finding approximate local minimum. Particularly, we show that when the size n is large enough, there are (ϵ,δ)-DP algorithms which can find an approximate local minimum of the empirical risk with high probability in both the constrained and non-constrained settings. These results indicate that one can escape saddle points privately. Bounding User Contributions: A Bias-Variance Trade-off in Differential Privacy Differentially private learning algorithms protect individual participants in the training dataset by guaranteeing that their presence does not significantly change the resulting model. In order to make this promise, such algorithms need to know the maximum contribution that can be made by a single user: the more data an individual can contribute, the more noise will need to be added to protect them. While most existing analyses assume that the maximum contribution is known and fixed in advance -- indeed, it is often assumed that each user contributes only a single example -- we argue that in practice there is a meaningful choice to be made. On the one hand, if we allow users to contribute large amounts of data, we may end up adding excessive noise to protect a few outliers, even when the majority contribute only modestly. On the other hand, limiting users to small contributions keeps noise levels low at the cost of potentially discarding significant amounts of excess data, thus introducing bias. Here, we characterize this trade-off for an empirical risk minimization setting, showing that in general there is a "sweet spot" that depends on measurable properties of the dataset, but that there is also a concrete cost to privacy that cannot be avoided simply by collecting more data. Differentially Private Learning of Geometric Concepts We present differentially private efficient algorithms for learning union of polygons in the plane (which are not necessarily convex). Our algorithms achieve (α,β)-PAC learning and (ϵ,δ)-differential privacy using a sample of size ~O(1αϵklogd), where the domain is [d]×[d] and k is the number of edges in the union of polygons. Toward Controlling Discrimination in Online Ad Auctions Online advertising platforms are thriving due to the customizable audiences they offer advertisers. However, recent studies show that the audience an ad gets shown to can be discriminatory with respect to sensitive attributes such as gender or ethnicity, inadvertently crossing ethical and/or legal boundaries. To prevent this, we propose a constrained optimization framework that allows the platform to control of the fraction of each sensitive type an advertiser's ad gets shown to while maximizing its ad revenues. Building upon Myerson's classic work, we first present an optimal auction mechanism for a large class of fairness constraints. Finding the parameters of this optimal auction, however, turns out to be a non-convex problem. We show how this non-convex problem can be reformulated as a more structured non-convex problem with no saddle points or local-maxima; allowing us to develop a gradient-descent-based algorithm to solve it. Our empirical results on the A1 Yahoo! dataset demonstrate that our algorithm can obtain uniform coverage across different user attributes for each advertiser at a minor loss to the revenue of the platform, and a small change in the total number of advertisements each advertiser shows on the platform. Learning Optimal Fair Policies Systematic discriminatory biases present in our society influence the way data is collected and stored, the way variables are defined, and the way scientific findings are put into practice as policy. Automated decision procedures and learning algorithms applied to such data may serve to perpetuate existing injustice or unfairness in our society. In this paper, we consider how to make optimal but fair decisions, which “break the cycle of injustice” by correcting for the unfair dependence of both decisions and outcomes on sensitive features (e.g., variables that correspond to gender, race, disability, or other protected attributes). We use methods from causal inference and constrained optimization to learn optimal policies in a way that addresses multiple potential biases which afflict data analysis in sensitive contexts, extending the approach of Nabi & Shpitser (2018). Our proposal comes equipped with the theoretical guarantee that the chosen fair policy will induce a joint distribution for new instances that satisfies given fairness constraints. We illustrate our approach with both synthetic data and real criminal justice data. Fairness-Aware Learning for Continuous Attributes and Treatments We address the problem of algorithmic fairness: ensuring that the outcome of a classifier is not biased towards certain values of sensitive variables such as age, race or gender. As common fairness conditions can be expressed as (conditional) independence between variables, we propose to use the R\'enyi maximum correlation coefficient to generalize fairness measurement to continuous variables. We exploit the Witsenhausen's characterization of the R\'enyi coefficient to propose a differentiable implementation linked to f-divergences. This allows us to generalize fairness-aware learning to continuous variables by using a penalty that upper bounds this coefficient. This penalty can be estimated on mini-batches allowing to use deep nets. Experiments show a favorable comparison to state of the art on binary variables and prove the ability to protect continuous instances. Fairness risk measures Ensuring that classifiers are non-discriminatory or fair with respect to a sensitive feature (e.g., race or gender) is a topical problem. Progress in this task requires fixing a definition of fairness, and there have been several proposals in this regard over the past few years. Several of these, however, assume either binary sensitive features (thus precluding categorical or real-valued sensitive groups), or result in non-convex objectives (thus adversely affecting the optimisation landscape). In this paper, we propose a new definition of fairness that generalises some existing proposals, while allowing for generic sensitive features and resulting in a convex objective. The key idea is to enforce that the expected losses (or risks) across each subgroup induced by the sensitive feature are commensurate. We show how this relates to the rich literature on risk measures from mathematical finance. As a special case, this leads to a new convex fairness-aware objective based on minimising the conditional value at risk (CVaR).



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