We present a fast, differentially private algorithm for highdimensional covarianceaware mean estimation with nearly optimal sample complexity. Only exponentialtime estimators were previously known to achieve this guarantee. Given n samples from a (sub)Gaussian distribution with unknown mean μ and covariance Σ, our (ε,δ)differentially private estimator produces μ~ such that ∥μ−μ~∥Σ≤α as long as n≳dα2+dlog1/δ√αε+dlog1/δε. The Mahalanobis error metric ∥μ−μ^∥Σ measures the distance between μ^ and μ relative to Σ; it characterizes the error of the sample mean. Our algorithm runs in time O~(ndω−1+nd/ε), where ω<2.38 is the matrix multiplication exponent.
We adapt an exponentialtime approach of Brown, Gaboardi, Smith, Ullman, and Zakynthinou (2021), giving efficient variants of stable mean and covariance estimation subroutines that also improve the sample complexity to the nearly optimal bound above.
Our stable covariance estimator can be turned to private covariance estimation for unrestricted subgaussian distributions. With n≳d3/2 samples, our estimate is accurate in spectral norm. This is the first such algorithm using n=o(d2) samples, answering an open question posed by Alabi et al. (2022). With n≳d2 samples, our estimate is accurate in Frobenius norm. This leads to a fast, nearly optimal algorithm for private learning of unrestricted Gaussian distributions in TV distance.
Duchi, Haque, and Kuditipudi (2023) obtained similar results independently and concurrently.
more »
« less
Private HighDimensional Hypothesis Testing
We provide improved differentially private algorithms for identity testing of highdimensional distributions. Specifically, for ddimensional Gaussian distributions with known covariance Σ, we can test whether the distribution comes from N(μ∗,Σ) for some fixed μ∗ or from some N(μ,Σ) with total variation distance at least α from N(μ∗,Σ) with (ε,0)differential privacy, using only
O~(d1/2α2+d1/3α4/3⋅ε2/3+1α⋅ε)
samples if the algorithm is allowed to be computationally inefficient, and only
O~(d1/2α2+d1/4α⋅ε)
samples for a computationally efficient algorithm. We also provide a matching lower bound showing that our computationally inefficient algorithm has optimal sample complexity. We also extend our algorithms to various related problems, including mean testing of Gaussians with bounded but unknown covariance, uniformity testing of product distributions over {−1,1}d, and tolerant testing.
Our results improve over the previous best work of Canonne et al.~\cite{CanonneKMUZ20} for both computationally efficient and inefficient algorithms, and even our computationally efficient algorithm matches the optimal \emph{nonprivate} sample complexity of O(d√α2) in many standard parameter settings.
In addition, our results show that, surprisingly, private identity testing of ddimensional Gaussians can be done with fewer samples than private identity testing of discrete distributions over a domain of size d \cite{AcharyaSZ18}, which refutes a conjectured lower bound of~\cite{CanonneKMUZ20}.
more »
« less
 Award ID(s):
 2022448
 NSFPAR ID:
 10343431
 Date Published:
 Journal Name:
 Conference on Learning Theory (COLT 2022)
 Format(s):
 Medium: X
 Sponsoring Org:
 National Science Foundation
More Like this


We present a fast, differentially private algorithm for highdimensional covarianceaware mean estimation with nearly optimal sample complexity. Only exponentialtime estimators were previously known to achieve this guarantee. Given n samples from a (sub)Gaussian distribution with unknown mean μ and covariance Σ, our (ϵ,δ)differentially private estimator produces μ~ such that ∥μ−μ~∥Σ≤α as long as n≳dα2+dlog1/δ√αϵ+dlog1/δϵ. The Mahalanobis error metric ∥μ−μ^∥Σ measures the distance between μ^ and μ relative to Σ; it characterizes the error of the sample mean. Our algorithm runs in time O~(ndω−1+nd/\eps), where ω<2.38 is the matrix multiplication exponent.We adapt an exponentialtime approach of Brown, Gaboardi, Smith, Ullman, and Zakynthinou (2021), giving efficient variants of stable mean and covariance estimation subroutines that also improve the sample complexity to the nearly optimal bound above.Our stable covariance estimator can be turned to private covariance estimation for unrestricted subgaussian distributions. With n≳d3/2 samples, our estimate is accurate in spectral norm. This is the first such algorithm using n=o(d2) samples, answering an open question posed by Alabi et al. (2022). With n≳d2 samples, our estimate is accurate in Frobenius norm. This leads to a fast, nearly optimal algorithm for private learning of unrestricted Gaussian distributions in TV distance.Duchi, Haque, and Kuditipudi (2023) obtained similar results independently and concurrently.more » « less

We consider the question of Gaussian mean testing, a fundamental task in highdimensional distribution testing and signal processing, subject to adversarial corruptions of the samples. We focus on the relative power of different adversaries, and show that, in contrast to the common wisdom in robust statistics, there exists a strict separation between adaptive adversaries (strong contamination) and oblivious ones (weak contamination) for this task. Specifically, we resolve both the informationtheoretic and computational landscapes for robust mean testing. In the exponentialtime setting, we establish the tight sample complexity of testing N(0,I) against N(αv,I), where ∥v∥2=1, with an εfraction of adversarial corruptions, to be Θ~(max(d−−√α2,dε3α4,min(d2/3ε2/3α8/3,dεα2))), while the complexity against adaptive adversaries is Θ~(max(d−−√α2,dε2α4)), which is strictly worse for a large range of vanishing ε,α. To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first separation in sample complexity between the strong and weak contamination models. In the polynomialtime setting, we close a gap in the literature by providing a polynomialtime algorithm against adaptive adversaries achieving the above sample complexity Θ~(max(d−−√/α2,dε2/α4)), and a lowdegree lower bound (which complements an existing reduction from planted clique) suggesting that all efficient algorithms require this many samples, even in the obliviousadversary setting.more » « less

We consider the question of Gaussian mean testing, a fundamental task in highdimensional distribution testing and signal processing, subject to adversarial corruptions of the samples. We focus on the relative power of different adversaries, and show that, in contrast to the common wisdom in robust statistics, there exists a strict separation between adaptive adversaries (strong contamination) and oblivious ones (weak contamination) for this task. Specifically, we resolve both the informationtheoretic and computational landscapes for robust mean testing. In the exponentialtime setting, we establish the tight sample complexity of testing N(0,I) against N(αv,I), where ∥v∥2=1, with an εfraction of adversarial corruptions, to be Θ~(max(d√α2,dε3α4,min(d2/3ε2/3α8/3,dεα2))) while the complexity against adaptive adversaries is Θ~(max(d√α2,dε2α4)) which is strictly worse for a large range of vanishing ε,α. To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first separation in sample complexity between the strong and weak contamination models. In the polynomialtime setting, we close a gap in the literature by providing a polynomialtime algorithm against adaptive adversaries achieving the above sample complexity Θ~(max(d−−√/α2,dε2/α4)), and a lowdegree lower bound (which complements an existing reduction from planted clique) suggesting that all efficient algorithms require this many samples, even in the obliviousadversary setting.more » « less

We consider the problem of accurately recovering a matrix B of size M by M, which represents a probability distribution over M^2 outcomes, given access to an observed matrix of "counts" generated by taking independent samples from the distribution B. How can structural properties of the underlying matrix B be leveraged to yield computationally efficient and information theoretically optimal reconstruction algorithms? When can accurate reconstruction be accomplished in the sparse data regime? This basic problem lies at the core of a number of questions that are currently being considered by different communities, including building recommendation systems and collaborative filtering in the sparse data regime, community detection in sparse random graphs, learning structured models such as topic models or hidden Markov models, and the efforts from the natural language processing community to compute "word embeddings". Many aspects of this problemboth in terms of learning and property testing/estimation and on both the algorithmic and information theoretic sidesremain open. Our results apply to the setting where B has a low rank structure. For this setting, we propose an efficient (and practically viable) algorithm that accurately recovers the underlying M by M matrix using O(M) samples} (where we assume the rank is a constant). This linear sample complexity is optimal, up to constant factors, in an extremely strong sense: even testing basic properties of the underlying matrix (such as whether it has rank 1 or 2) requires Omega(M) samples. Additionally, we provide an even stronger lower bound showing that distinguishing whether a sequence of observations were drawn from the uniform distribution over M observations versus being generated by a wellconditioned Hidden Markov Model with two hidden states requires Omega(M) observations, while our positive results for recovering B immediately imply that Omega(M) observations suffice to learn such an HMM. This lower bound precludes sublinearsample hypothesis tests for basic properties, such as identity or uniformity, as well as sublinear sample estimators for quantities such as the entropy rate of HMMs.more » « less