A Central Limit Theorem for Differentially Private Query AnsweringDownload PDF

21 May 2021, 20:50 (edited 26 Oct 2021)NeurIPS 2021 SpotlightReaders: Everyone
  • Keywords: differential privacy, central limit theorem, uncertainty principle, Cramer-Rao lower bound
  • TL;DR: Adding even highly correlated noise to a high-dimensional query yields Gaussian Differential Privacy. Privacy-accuracy trade-off is related to Cramer-Rao lower bound.
  • Abstract: Perhaps the single most important use case for differential privacy is to privately answer numerical queries, which is usually achieved by adding noise to the answer vector. The central question is, therefore, to understand which noise distribution optimizes the privacy-accuracy trade-off, especially when the dimension of the answer vector is high. Accordingly, an extensive literature has been dedicated to the question and the upper and lower bounds have been successfully matched up to constant factors (Bun et al., 2018; Steinke & Ullman, 2017). In this paper, we take a novel approach to address this important optimality question. We first demonstrate an intriguing central limit theorem phenomenon in the high-dimensional regime. More precisely, we prove that a mechanism is approximately Gaussian Differentially Private (Dong et al., 2021) if the added noise satisfies certain conditions. In particular, densities proportional to $\mathrm{e}^{-\|x\|_p^\alpha}$, where $\|x\|_p$ is the standard $\ell_p$-norm, satisfies the conditions. Taking this perspective, we make use of the Cramer--Rao inequality and show an "uncertainty principle"-style result: the product of privacy parameter and the $\ell_2$-loss of the mechanism is lower bounded by the dimension. Furthermore, the Gaussian mechanism achieves the constant-sharp optimal privacy-accuracy trade-off among all such noises. Our findings are corroborated by numerical experiments.
  • Supplementary Material: pdf
  • Code Of Conduct: I certify that all co-authors of this work have read and commit to adhering to the NeurIPS Statement on Ethics, Fairness, Inclusivity, and Code of Conduct.
  • Code: zip
11 Replies