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Matrix Estimation for Individual Fairness

Cindy Zhang · Sarah Cen · Devavrat Shah

Exhibit Hall 1 #609
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In recent years, multiple notions of algorithmic fairness have arisen. One such notion is individual fairness (IF), which requires that individuals who are similar receive similar treatment. In parallel, matrix estimation (ME) has emerged as a natural paradigm for handling noisy data with missing values. In this work, we connect the two concepts. We show that pre-processing data using ME can improve an algorithm's IF without sacrificing performance. Specifically, we show that using a popular ME method known as singular value thresholding (SVT) to pre-process the data provides a strong IF guarantee under appropriate conditions. We then show that, under analogous conditions, SVT pre-processing also yields estimates that are consistent and approximately minimax optimal. As such, the ME pre-processing step does not, under the stated conditions, increase the prediction error of the base algorithm, i.e., does not impose a fairness-performance trade-off. We verify these results on synthetic and real data.

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