Smoothed Differential Privacy

Published: 22 Dec 2023, Last Modified: 22 Dec 2023Accepted by TMLREveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Abstract: Differential privacy (DP) is a widely-accepted and widely-applied notion of privacy based on worst-case analysis. Often, DP classifies most mechanisms without additive noise as non-private (Dwork et al., 2014). Thus, additive noises are added to improve privacy (to achieve DP). However, in many real-world applications, adding additive noise is undesirable (Bagdasaryan et al., 2019) and sometimes prohibited (Liu et al., 2020). In this paper, we propose a natural extension of DP following the worst average-case idea behind the celebrated smoothed analysis (Spielman & Teng, May 2004). Our notion, smoothed DP, can effectively measure the privacy leakage of mechanisms without additive noises under realistic settings. We prove that any discrete mechanism with sampling procedures is more private than what DP predicts, while many continuous mechanisms with sampling procedures are still non-private under smoothed DP. In addition, we prove several desirable properties of smoothed DP, including composition, robustness to post-processing, and distribution reduction. Based on those properties, we propose an efficient algorithm to calculate the privacy parameters for smoothed DP. Experimentally, we verify that, according to smoothed DP, the discrete sampling mechanisms are private in real-world elections, and some discrete neural networks can be private without adding any additive noise. We believe that these results contribute to the theoretical foundation of realistic privacy measures beyond worst-case analysis.
Submission Length: Regular submission (no more than 12 pages of main content)
Changes Since Last Submission: This camera-ready version moved part of the related works to the appendix to fit the 12-page requirement.
Supplementary Material: pdf
Assigned Action Editor: ~Yiming_Ying1
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Submission Number: 1434