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# Clustering with Queries under Semi-Random Noise

*Proceedings of Thirty Fifth Conference on Learning Theory*, PMLR 178:5278-5313, 2022.

#### Abstract

The seminal paper by Mazumdar and Saha (2017a) introduced an extensive line of work on clustering with noisy queries. Yet, despite significant progress on the problem, the proposed methods depend crucially on knowing the exact probabilities of errors of the underlying fully-random oracle. In this work, we develop robust learning methods that tolerate general semi-random noise obtaining qualitatively the same guarantees as the best possible methods in the fully-random model. More specifically, given a set of n points with an unknown underlying partition, we are allowed to query pairs of points u,v to check if they are in the same cluster, but with probability p, the answer may be adversarially chosen. We show that information theoretically O(nk log n /(1-2p)^2) queries suffice to learn any cluster of sufficiently large size. Our main result is a computationally efficient algorithm that can identify large clusters with O(nk log n/ (1-2p)^2) + poly(log n, k, 1/(1-2p)) queries, matching the guarantees of the best known algorithms in the fully-random model. As a corollary of our approach, we develop the first parameter-free algorithm for the fully-random model, answering an open question in Mazumdar and Saha (2017a).