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H-nobs: Achieving Certified Fairness and Robustness in Distributed Learning on Heterogeneous Datasets

Guanqiang Zhou · Ping Xu · Ping Xu · Yue Wang · Zhi Tian

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1118


Fairness and robustness are two important goals in the design of modern distributed learning systems. Despite a few prior works attempting to achieve both fairness and robustness, some key aspects of this direction remain underexplored. In this paper, we try to answer three largely unnoticed and unaddressed questions that are of paramount significance to this topic: (i) What makes jointly satisfying fairness and robustness difficult? (ii) Is it possible to establish theoretical guarantee for the dual property of fairness and robustness? (iii) How much does fairness have to sacrifice at the expense of robustness being incorporated into the system? To address these questions, we first identify data heterogeneity as the key difficulty of combining fairness and robustness. Accordingly, we propose a fair and robust framework called H-nobs which can offer certified fairness and robustness through the adoption of two key components, a fairness-promoting objective function and a simple robust aggregation scheme called norm-based screening (NBS). We explain in detail why NBS is the suitable scheme in our algorithm in contrast to other robust aggregation measures. In addition, we derive three convergence theorems for H-nobs in cases of the learning model being nonconvex, convex, and strongly convex respectively, which provide theoretical guarantees for both fairness and robustness. Further, we empirically investigate the influence of the robust mechanism (NBS) on the fairness performance of H-nobs, the very first attempt of such exploration.

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