Found Graph Data and Planted Vertex Covers

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Austin R. Benson, Jon Kleinberg


A typical way in which network data is recorded is to measure all interactions involving a specified set of core nodes, which produces a graph containing this core together with a potentially larger set of fringe nodes that link to the core. Interactions between nodes in the fringe, however, are not present in the resulting graph data. For example, a phone service provider may only record calls in which at least one of the participants is a customer; this can include calls between a customer and a non-customer, but not between pairs of non-customers. Knowledge of which nodes belong to the core is crucial for interpreting the dataset, but this metadata is unavailable in many cases, either because it has been lost due to difficulties in data provenance, or because the network consists of "found data" obtained in settings such as counter-surveillance. This leads to an algorithmic problem of recovering the core set. Since the core is a vertex cover, we essentially have a planted vertex cover problem, but with an arbitrary underlying graph. We develop a framework for analyzing this planted vertex cover problem, based on the theory of fixed-parameter tractability, together with algorithms for recovering the core. Our algorithms are fast, simple to implement, and out-perform several baselines based on core-periphery structure on various real-world datasets.