Sample Complexity Bounds for Differentially Private Learning


Kamalika Chaudhuri, Daniel Hsu ;
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Conference on Learning Theory, PMLR 19:155-186, 2011.


This work studies the problem of privacy-preserving classification – namely, learning a classifier from sensitive data while preserving the privacy ofindividuals in the training set.In particular, the learning algorithm is required in this problem toguarantee differential privacy, a very strong notion of privacy that hasgained significant attention in recent years.A natural question to ask is: what is the sample requirement of a learningalgorithm that guarantees a certain level of privacy and accuracy?We address this question in the context of learning with infinite hypothesis classes whenthe data is drawn from a continuous distribution.We first show that even for very simple hypothesis classes, any algorithmthat uses a finite number of examples and guarantees differential privacymust fail to return an accurate classifier for at least some unlabeled datadistributions.This result is unlike the case with either finite hypothesis classes ordiscrete data domains, in which distribution-free private learning ispossible, as previously shown by \citetKLNRS08.We then consider two approaches to differentially private learning that get around this lower bound.The first approach is to use prior knowledge about the unlabeled data distribution in the form of a reference distribution \U chosen independently of the sensitive data. Given such a reference \U, we provide an upper bound on the sample requirement that depends (among other things) on a measure of closenessbetween \U and the unlabeled data distribution. Our upper bound appliesto the non-realizable as well as the realizable case. The second approachis to relax the privacy requirement, by requiring only label-privacy –namely, that the only labels (and not the unlabeled parts of the examples)be considered sensitive information. An upper bound on the samplerequirement of learning with label privacy was shown by \citetCDKMT06; inthis work, we show a lower bound.

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