Applying Theoretical Advances in Privacy to Computational Social Science Practice (Sloan Foundation)

2019
Balcer, Victor, and Salil Vadhan. “Differential privacy on finite computers.” Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality 9, no. 2 (2019). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Version History: 

Also presented at TPDP 2017; preliminary version posted as arXiv:1709.05396 [cs.DS].

2018: Published in Anna R. Karlin, editor, 9th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2018), volume 94 of Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), pp 43:1-43:21. http://drops.dagstuhl.de/opus/frontdoor.php?source_opus=8353

We consider the problem of designing and analyzing differentially private algorithms that can be implemented on discrete models of computation in strict polynomial time, motivated by known attacks on floating point implementations of real-arithmetic differentially private algorithms (Mironov, CCS 2012) and the potential for timing attacks on expected polynomial-time algorithms. As a case study, we examine the basic problem of approximating the histogram of a categorical dataset over a possibly large data universe \(X\). The classic Laplace Mechanism (Dwork, McSherry, Nissim, Smith, TCC 2006 and J. Privacy & Confidentiality 2017) does not satisfy our requirements, as it is based on real arithmetic, and natural discrete analogues, such as the Geometric Mechanism (Ghosh, Roughgarden, Sundarajan, STOC 2009 and SICOMP 2012), take time at least linear in \(|X|\), which can be exponential in the bit length of the input.

In this paper, we provide strict polynomial-time discrete algorithms for approximate histograms whose simultaneous accuracy (the maximum error over all bins) matches that of the Laplace Mechanism up to constant factors, while retaining the same (pure) differential privacy guarantee. One of our algorithms produces a sparse histogram as output. Its “per-bin accuracy” (the error on individual bins) is worse than that of the Laplace Mechanism by a factor of \(\log |X|\), but we prove a lower bound showing that this is necessary for any algorithm that produces a sparse histogram. A second algorithm avoids this lower bound, and matches the per-bin accuracy of the Laplace Mechanism, by producing a compact and efficiently computable representation of a dense histogram; it is based on an \((n + 1)\)-wise independent implementation of an appropriately clamped version of the Discrete Geometric Mechanism.

JPC2019.pdf ITCS2018.pdf ArXiv2018.pdf
2018
Murtagh, Jack, and Salil Vadhan. “The complexity of computing the optimal composition of differential privacy.” Theory of Computing 14 (2018): 1-35. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Version History: Full version posted on CoRR, abs/1507.03113, July 2015Additional version published in Proceedings of the 13th IACR Theory of Cryptography Conference (TCC '16-A)

In the study of differential privacy, composition theorems (starting with the original paper of Dwork, McSherry, Nissim, and Smith (TCC '06)) bound the degradation of privacy when composing several differentially private algorithms. Kairouz, Oh, and Viswanath (ICML '15) showed how to compute the optimal bound for composing \(k\) arbitrary (\(\epsilon\),\(\delta\))- differentially private algorithms. We characterize the optimal composition for the more general case of \(k\) arbitrary (\(\epsilon_1\) , \(\delta_1\) ), . . . , (\(\epsilon_k\) , \(\delta_k\) )-differentially private algorithms where the privacy parameters may differ for each algorithm in the composition. We show that computing the optimal composition in general is \(\#\)P-complete. Since computing optimal composition exactly is infeasible (unless FP\(=\)\(\#\)P), we give an approximation algorithm that computes the composition to arbitrary accuracy in polynomial time. The algorithm is a modification of Dyer’s dynamic programming approach to approximately counting solutions to knapsack problems (STOC '03).

ArXiv2016.pdf TCC2016-A.pdf TOC2018.pdf
Karwa, Vishesh, and Salil Vadhan. “Finite sample differentially private confidence intervals.” In Anna R. Karlin, editor, 9th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2018), volume 94 of Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), 44:1-44:9. Dagstuhl, Germany, 2018. Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik. ITCS, 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Version History: Also presented at TPDP 2017. Preliminary version posted as arXiv:1711.03908 [cs.CR].

We study the problem of estimating finite sample confidence intervals of the mean of a normal population under the constraint of differential privacy. We consider both the known and unknown variance cases and construct differentially private algorithms to estimate confidence intervals. Crucially, our algorithms guarantee a finite sample coverage, as opposed to an asymptotic coverage. Unlike most previous differentially private algorithms, we do not require the domain of the samples to be bounded. We also prove lower bounds on the expected size of any differentially private confidence set showing that our the parameters are optimal up to polylogarithmic factors.

ITCS2018.pdf ArXiv2017.pdf
2017
Vadhan, Salil. “The Complexity of Differential Privacy.” In Tutorials on the Foundations of Cryptography, 347-450. Springer, Yehuda Lindell, ed. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Version History: 

August 2016: Manuscript v1 (see files attached)

March 2017: Manuscript v2 (see files attached); Errata

April 2017: Published Version (in Tutorials on the Foundations of Cryptography; see Publisher's Version link and also SPRINGER 2017.PDF, below) 

 

Differential privacy is a theoretical framework for ensuring the privacy of individual-level data when performing statistical analysis of privacy-sensitive datasets. This tutorial provides an introduction to and overview of differential privacy, with the goal of conveying its deep connections to a variety of other topics in computational complexity, cryptography, and theoretical computer science at large. This tutorial is written in celebration of Oded Goldreich’s 60th birthday, starting from notes taken during a minicourse given by the author and Kunal Talwar at the 26th McGill Invitational Workshop on Computational Complexity [1].

 

SPRINGER 2017.pdf ERRATA 2017.pdf MANUSCRIPT 2017.pdf MANUSCRIPT 2016.pdf
2016
Nissim, Kobbi, Uri Stemmer, and Salil Vadhan. “Locating a small cluster privately.” In Proceedings of the 35th ACM SIGMOD-SIGACT-SIGAI Symposium on Principles of Database Systems (PODS ‘16), 413-427. ACM, 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Version HistoryFull version posted as arXiv:1604.05590 [cs.DS].

We present a new algorithm for locating a small cluster of points with differential privacy [Dwork, McSherry, Nissim, and Smith, 2006]. Our algorithm has implications to private data exploration, clustering, and removal of outliers. Furthermore, we use it to significantly relax the requirements of the sample and aggregate technique [Nissim, Raskhodnikova, and Smith, 2007], which allows compiling of “off the shelf” (non-private) analyses into analyses that preserve differential privacy.
 

PODS2016.pdf ArXiv2017.pdf
Gaboardi, Marco, Hyun Woo Lim, Ryan Rogers, and Salil Vadhan. “Differentially private chi-squared hypothesis testing: Goodness of fit and independence testing.” In M. Balcan and K. Weinberger, editors, Proceedings of the 33rd International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML ‘16). 2111-2120, 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Version History: Preliminary version posted as arXiv:1602.03090.

Hypothesis testing is a useful statistical tool in determining whether a given model should be rejected based on a sample from the population. Sample data may contain sensitive information about individuals, such as medical information. Thus it is important to design statistical tests that guarantee the privacy of subjects in the data. In this work, we study hypothesis testing subject to differential privacy, specifically chi-squared tests for goodness of fit for multinomial data and independence between two categorical variables.

We propose new tests for goodness of fit and independence testing that like the classical versions can be used to determine whether a given model should be rejected or not, and that additionally can ensure differential privacy. We give both Monte Carlo based hypothesis tests as well as hypothesis tests that more closely follow the classical chi-squared goodness of fit test and the Pearson chi-squared test for independence. Crucially, our tests account for the distribution of the noise that is injected to ensure privacy in determining significance.

We show that these tests can be used to achieve desired significance levels, in sharp contrast to direct applications of classical tests to differentially private contingency tables which can result in wildly varying significance levels. Moreover, we study the statistical power of these tests. We empirically show that to achieve the same level of power as the classical non-private tests our new tests need only a relatively modest increase in sample size.

ICML2016.pdf ArXiv2016.pdf
Rogers, Ryan, Aaron Roth, Jonathan Ullman, and Salil Vadhan. “Privacy odometers and filters: Pay-as-you-go composition.” In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS `16). 1921-1929, 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Version History: Full version posted as https://arxiv.org/abs/1605.08294.

In this paper we initiate the study of adaptive composition in differential privacy when the length of the composition, and the privacy parameters themselves can be chosen adaptively, as a function of the outcome of previously run analyses. This case is much more delicate than the setting covered by existing composition theorems, in which the algorithms themselves can be chosen adaptively, but the privacy parameters must be fixed up front. Indeed, it isn’t even clear how to define differential privacy in the adaptive parameter setting. We proceed by defining two objects which cover the two main use cases of composition theorems. A privacy filter is a stopping time rule that allows an analyst to halt a computation before his pre-specified privacy budget is exceeded. A privacy odometer allows the analyst to track realized privacy loss as he goes, without needing to pre-specify a privacy budget. We show that unlike the case in which privacy parameters are fixed, in the adaptive parameter setting, these two use cases are distinct. We show that there exist privacy filters with bounds comparable (up to constants) with existing pri- vacy composition theorems. We also give a privacy odometer that nearly matches non-adaptive private composition theorems, but is sometimes worse by a small asymptotic factor. Moreover, we show that this is inherent, and that any valid privacy odometer in the adaptive parameter setting must lose this factor, which shows a formal separation between the filter and odometer use-cases.

ArXiv2016.pdf NIPS2016.pdf