The advantages of multiple classes for reducing overfitting from test set reuse

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Vitaly Feldman, Roy Frostig, Moritz Hardt ;
Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 97:1892-1900, 2019.

Abstract

Excessive reuse of holdout data can lead to overfitting. However, there is little concrete evidence of significant overfitting due to holdout reuse in popular multiclass benchmarks today. Known results show that, in the worst-case, revealing the accuracy of $k$ adaptively chosen classifiers on a data set of size $n$ allows to create a classifier with bias of $\Theta(\sqrt{k/n})$ for any binary prediction problem. We show a new upper bound of $\tilde O(\max\{\sqrt{k\log(n)/(mn)}, k/n\})$ on the worst-case bias that any attack can achieve in a prediction problem with $m$ classes. Moreover, we present an efficient attack that achieve a bias of $\Omega(\sqrt{k/(m^2 n)})$ and improves on previous work for the binary setting ($m=2$). We also present an inefficient attack that achieves a bias of $\tilde\Omega(k/n)$. Complementing our theoretical work, we give new practical attacks to stress-test multiclass benchmarks by aiming to create as large a bias as possible with a given number of queries. Our experiments show that the additional uncertainty of prediction with a large number of classes indeed mitigates the effect of our best attacks.

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