Instance-optimality in differential privacy via approximate inverse sensitivity mechanisms

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Hilal Asi, John C. Duchi


We study and provide instance-optimal algorithms in differential privacy by extending and approximating the inverse sensitivity mechanism. We provide two approximation frameworks, one which only requires knowledge of local sensitivities, and a gradient-based approximation for optimization problems, which are efficiently computable for a broad class of functions. We complement our analysis with instance-specific lower bounds for vector-valued functions, which demonstrate that our mechanisms are (nearly) instance-optimal under certain assumptions and that minimax lower bounds may not provide an accurate estimate of the hardness of a problem in general: our algorithms can significantly outperform minimax bounds for well-behaved instances. Finally, we use our approximation framework to develop private mechanisms for unbounded-range mean estimation, principal component analysis, and linear regression. For PCA, our mechanisms give an efficient (pure) differentially private algorithm with near-optimal rates.