skip to main content

Title: Achieving User-Side Fairness in Contextual Bandits
Personalized recommendation based on multi-arm bandit (MAB) algorithms has shown to lead to high utility and efficiency as it can dynamically adapt the recommendation strategy based on feedback. However, unfairness could incur in personalized recommendation. In this paper, we study how to achieve user-side fairness in personalized recommendation. We formulate our fair personalized recommendation as a modified contextual bandit and focus on achieving fairness on the individual whom is being recommended an item as opposed to achieving fairness on the items that are being recommended. We introduce and define a metric that captures the fairness in terms of rewards received for both the privileged and protected groups. We develop a fair contextual bandit algorithm, Fair-LinUCB, that improves upon the traditional LinUCB algorithm to achieve group-level fairness of users. Our algorithm detects and monitors unfairness while it learns to recommend personalized videos to students to achieve high efficiency. We provide a theoretical regret analysis and show that our algorithm has a slightly higher regret bound than LinUCB. We conduct numerous experimental evaluations to compare the performances of our fair contextual bandit to that of LinUCB and show that our approach achieves group-level fairness while maintaining a high utility.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1937010 1940093
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Human-Centric Intelligent Systems
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. In online recommendation, customers arrive in a sequential and stochastic manner from an underlying distribution and the online decision model recommends a chosen item for each arriving individual based on some strategy. We study how to recommend an item at each step to maximize the expected reward while achieving user-side fairness for customers, i.e., customers who share similar profiles will receive a similar reward regardless of their sensitive attributes and items being recommended. By incorporating causal inference into bandits and adopting soft intervention to model the arm selection strategy, we first propose the d-separation based UCB algorithm (D-UCB) to explore the utilization of the d-separation set in reducing the amount of exploration needed to achieve low cumulative regret. Based on that, we then propose the fair causal bandit (F-UCB) for achieving the counterfactual individual fairness. Both theoretical analysis and empirical evaluation demonstrate effectiveness of our algorithms. 
    more » « less
  2. Recommendation systems have been used in many domains, and in recent years, ethical problems associated with such systems have gained serious attention. The problem of unfairness in friendship or link recommendation systems in social networks has begun attracting attention, as such unfairness can cause problems like segmentation and echo chambers. One challenge in this problem is that there are many fairness metrics for networks, and existing methods only consider the improvement of a single specific fairness indicator. In this work, we model the fair link prediction problem as a multi-armed bandit problem. We propose FairLink, a multi-armed bandit based framework that predicts new edges that are both accurate and well-behaved with respect to a fairness property of choice. This method allows the user to specify the desired fairness metric. Experiments on five real-world datasets show that FairLink can achieve a significant fairness improvement as compared to a standard recommendation algorithm, with only a small reduction in accuracy. 
    more » « less
  3. Contextual bandit algorithms have become widely used for recommendation in online systems (e.g. marketplaces, music streaming, news), where they now wield substantial influence on which items get shown to users. This raises questions of fairness to the items — and to the sellers, artists, and writers that benefit from this exposure. We argue that the conventional bandit formulation can lead to an undesirable and unfair winner-takes-all allocation of exposure. To remedy this problem, we propose a new bandit objective that guarantees merit-based fairness of exposure to the items while optimizing utility to the users. We formulate fairness regret and reward regret in this setting and present algorithms for both stochastic multi-armed bandits and stochastic linear bandits. We prove that the algorithms achieve sublinear fairness regret and reward regret. Beyond the theoretical analysis, we also provide empirical evidence that these algorithms can allocate exposure to different arms effectively. 
    more » « less
  4. In this paper, we propose and study opportunistic contextual bandits - a special case of contextual bandits where the exploration cost varies under different environmental conditions, such as network load or return variation in recommendations. When the exploration cost is low, so is the actual regret of pulling a sub-optimal arm (e.g., trying a suboptimal recommendation). Therefore, intuitively, we could explore more when the exploration cost is relatively low and exploit more when the exploration cost is relatively high. Inspired by this intuition, for opportunistic contextual bandits with Linear payoffs, we propose an Adaptive Upper-Confidence-Bound algorithm (AdaLinUCB) to adaptively balance the exploration-exploitation trade-off for opportunistic learning. We prove that AdaLinUCB achieves O((log T)^2) problem-dependent regret upper bound, which has a smaller coefficient than that of the traditional LinUCB algorithm. Moreover, based on both synthetic and real-world dataset, we show that AdaLinUCB significantly outperforms other contextual bandit algorithms, under large exploration cost fluctuations.

    more » « less
  5. We present RobinHood, an offline contextual bandit algorithm designed to satisfy a broad family of fairness constraints. Our algorithm accepts multiple fairness definitions and allows users to construct their own unique fairness definitions for the problem at hand. We provide a theoretical analysis of RobinHood, which includes a proof that it will not return an unfair solution with probability greater than a user-specified threshold. We validate our algorithm on three applications: a tutoring system in which we conduct a user study and consider multiple unique fairness definitions; a loan approval setting (using the Statlog German credit data set) in which well-known fairness definitions are applied; and criminal recidivism (using data released by ProPublica). In each setting, our algorithm is able to produce fair policies that achieve performance competitive with other offline and online contextual bandit algorithms. 
    more » « less