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Add to Calendar 3/9/21 20:00 3/9/21 21:45 UTC Paper Session 16 Check out this session on the FAccT Hub.
Track Two

Paper Session 16

Session Chair:
Michael Ekstrand
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Socially Fair k-Means Clustering

Mehrdad Ghadiri, Samira Samadi, Santosh Vempala
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We show that the popular k-means clustering algorithm (Lloyd's heuristic), used for a variety of scientific data, can result in outcomes that are unfavorable to subgroups of data (e.g., demographic groups). Such biased clusterings can have deleterious implications for human-centric applications such as resource allocation. We present a fair k-means objective and algorithm to choose cluster centers that provide equitable costs for different groups. The algorithm, Fair-Lloyd, is a modification of Lloyd's heuristic for k-means, inheriting its simplicity, efficiency, and stability. In comparison with standard Lloyd's, we find that on benchmark datasets, Fair-Lloyd exhibits unbiased performance by ensuring that all groups have equal costs in the output k-clustering, while incurring a negligible increase in running time, thus making it a viable fair option wherever k-means is currently used.

"What We Can’t Measure, We Can’t Understand": Challenges to Demographic Data Procurement in the Pursuit of Fairness

McKane Andrus, Elena Spitzer, Jeffrey Brown, Alice Xiang
View Paper


As calls for fair and unbiased algorithmic systems increase, so too does the number of individuals working on algorithmic fairness in industry. However, these practitioners often do not have access to the demographic data they feel they need to detect bias in practice. Even with the growing variety of toolkits and strategies for working towards algorithmic fairness, they almost invariably require access to demographic attributes or proxies. We investigated this dilemma through semi-structured interviews with 38 practitioners and professionals either working in or adjacent to algorithmic fairness. Participants painted a complex picture of what demographic data availability and use look like on the ground, ranging from not having access to personal data of any kind to being legally required to collect and use demographic data for discrimination assessments. In many domains, demographic data collection raises a host of difficult questions, including how to balance privacy and fairness, how to define relevant social categories, how to ensure meaningful consent, and whether it is appropriate for private companies to infer someone's demographics. Our research suggests challenges that must be considered by businesses, regulators, researchers, and community groups in order to enable practitioners to address algorithmic bias in practice. Critically, we do not propose that the overall goal of future work should be to simply lower the barriers to collecting demographic data. Rather, our study surfaces a swath of normative questions about how, when, and whether this data should be procured, and, in cases where it is not, what should still be done to mitigate bias.

Fairness Through Robustness: Investigating Robustness Disparity in Deep Learning

Vedant Nanda, Samuel Dooley, Sahil Singla, Soheil Feizi, John P. Dickerson
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Deep neural networks (DNNs) are increasingly used in real-world applications (e.g. facial recognition). This has resulted in concerns about the fairness of decisions made by these models. Various notions and measures of fairness have been proposed to ensure that a decision-making system does not disproportionately harm (or benefit) particular subgroups of the population. In this paper, we argue that traditional notions of fairness that are only based on models' outputs are not sufficient when the model is vulnerable to adversarial attacks. We argue that in some cases, it may be easier for an attacker to target a particular subgroup, resulting in a form of robustness bias. We show that measuring robustness bias is a challenging task for DNNs and propose two methods to measure this form of bias. We then conduct an empirical study on state-of-the-art neural networks on commonly used real-world datasets such as CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, Adience, and UTKFace and show that in almost all cases there are subgroups (in some cases based on sensitive attributes like race, gender, etc) which are less robust and are thus at a disadvantage. We argue that this kind of bias arises due to both the data distribution and the highly complex nature of the learned decision boundary in the case of DNNs, thus making mitigation of such biases a non-trivial task. Our results show that robustness bias is an important criterion to consider while auditing real-world systems that rely on DNNs for decision making. Code to reproduce all our results can be found here:

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