Model-Agnostic Private Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Raef Bassily, Om Thakkar, Abhradeep Guha Thakurta


We design differentially private learning algorithms that are agnostic to the learning model assuming access to limited amount of unlabeled public data. First, we give a new differentially private algorithm for answering a sequence of $m$ online classification queries (given by a sequence of $m$ unlabeled public feature vectors) based on a private training set. Our private algorithm follows the paradigm of subsample-and-aggregate, in which any generic non-private learner is trained on disjoint subsets of the private training set, then for each classification query, the votes of the resulting classifiers ensemble are aggregated in a differentially private fashion. Our private aggregation is based on a novel combination of distance-to-instability framework [Smith & Thakurta 2013] and the sparse-vector technique [Dwork et al. 2009, Hardt & Talwar 2010]. We show that our algorithm makes a conservative use of the privacy budget. In particular, if the underlying non-private learner yields classification error at most $\alpha\in (0, 1)$, then our construction answers more queries, by at least a factor of $1/\alpha$ in some cases, than what is implied by a straightforward application of the advanced composition theorem for differential privacy. Next, we apply the knowledge transfer technique to construct a private learner that outputs a classifier, which can be used to answer unlimited number of queries. In the PAC model, we analyze our construction and prove upper bounds on the sample complexity for both the realizable and the non-realizable cases. As in non-private sample complexity, our bounds are completely characterized by the VC dimension of the concept class.