A Practical Algorithm for Distributed Clustering and Outlier Detection

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

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Jiecao Chen, Erfan Sadeqi Azer, Qin Zhang


We study the classic k-means/median clustering, which are fundamental problems in unsupervised learning, in the setting where data are partitioned across multiple sites, and where we are allowed to discard a small portion of the data by labeling them as outliers. We propose a simple approach based on constructing small summary for the original dataset. The proposed method is time and communication efficient, has good approximation guarantees, and can identify the global outliers effectively.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first practical algorithm with theoretical guarantees for distributed clustering with outliers. Our experiments on both real and synthetic data have demonstrated the clear superiority of our algorithm against all the baseline algorithms in almost all metrics.