Data poisoning attacks on off-policy policy evaluation methods
Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, PMLR 180:1264-1274, 2022.
Off-policy Evaluation (OPE) methods are a crucial tool for evaluating policies in high-stakes domains such as healthcare, where exploration is often infeasible, unethical, or expensive. However, the extent to which such methods can be trusted under adversarial threats to data quality is largely unexplored. In this work, we make the first attempt at investigating the sensitivity of OPE methods to marginal adversarial perturbations to the data. We design a generic data poisoning attack framework leveraging influence functions from robust statistics to carefully construct perturbations that maximize error in the policy value estimates. We carry out extensive experimentation with multiple healthcare and control datasets. Our results demonstrate that many existing OPE methods are highly prone to generating value estimates with large errors when subject to data poisoning attacks, even for small adversarial perturbations. These findings question the reliability of policy values derived using OPE methods and motivate the need for developing OPE methods that are statistically robust to train-time data poisoning attacks.