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Towards Poisoning Fair Representations

Tianci Liu · Haoyu Wang · Feijie Wu · Hengtong Zhang · Pan Li · Lu Su · Jing Gao

Halle B #302
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Wed 8 May 1:45 a.m. PDT — 3:45 a.m. PDT


Fair machine learning seeks to mitigate model prediction bias against certain demographic subgroups such as elder and female. Recently, fair representation learning (FRL) trained by deep neural networks has demonstrated superior performance, whereby representations containing no demographic information are inferred from the data and then used as the input to classification or other downstream tasks. Despite the development of FRL methods, their vulnerability under data poisoning attack, a popular protocol to benchmark model robustness under adversarial scenarios, is under-explored. Data poisoning attacks have been developed for classical fair machine learning methods which incorporate fairness constraints into shallow-model classifiers.Nonetheless, these attacks fall short in FRL due to notably different fairness goals and model architectures. This work proposes the first data poisoning framework attacking FRL. We induce the model to output unfair representations that contain as much demographic information as possible by injecting carefully crafted poisoning samples into the training data.This attack entails a prohibitive bilevel optimization, wherefore an effective approximated solution is proposed. A theoretical analysis on the needed number of poisoning samples is derived and sheds light on defending against the attack. Experiments on benchmark fairness datasets and state-of-the-art fair representation learning models demonstrate the superiority of our attack.

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