Dirichlet-Enhanced Spam Filtering based on Biased Samples

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 19 (NIPS 2006)

Bibtex Metadata Paper


Steffen Bickel, Tobias Scheffer


We study a setting that is motivated by the problem of filtering spam messages for many users. Each user receives messages according to an individual, unknown distribution, reflected only in the unlabeled inbox. The spam filter for a user is required to perform well with respect to this distribution. Labeled messages from publicly available sources can be utilized, but they are governed by a distinct distribution, not adequately representing most inboxes. We devise a method that minimizes a loss function with respect to a user's personal distribution based on the available biased sample. A nonparametric hierarchical Bayesian model furthermore generalizes across users by learning a common prior which is imposed on new email accounts. Empirically, we observe that bias-corrected learning outperforms naive reliance on the assumption of independent and identically distributed data; Dirichlet-enhanced generalization across users outperforms a single ("one size fits all") filter as well as independent filters for all users.