Are Two Heads the Same as One? Identifying Disparate Treatment in Fair Neural NetworksDownload PDF

Published: 31 Oct 2022, Last Modified: 03 Jul 2024NeurIPS 2022 AcceptReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Machine Learning, Neural Networks, Algorithmic Fairness, Demographic Parity, Disparate Treatment
Abstract: We show that deep networks trained to satisfy demographic parity often do so through a form of race or gender awareness, and that the more we force a network to be fair, the more accurately we can recover race or gender from the internal state of the network. Based on this observation, we investigate an alternative fairness approach: we add a second classification head to the network to explicitly predict the protected attribute (such as race or gender) alongside the original task. After training the two-headed network, we enforce demographic parity by merging the two heads, creating a network with the same architecture as the original network. We establish a close relationship between existing approaches and our approach by showing (1) that the decisions of a fair classifier are well-approximated by our approach, and (2) that an unfair and optimally accurate classifier can be recovered from a fair classifier and our second head predicting the protected attribute. We use our explicit formulation to argue that the existing fairness approaches, just as ours, demonstrate disparate treatment and that they are likely to be unlawful in a wide range of scenarios under US law.
TL;DR: The paper identifies disparate treatment in fair deep neural networks.
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