Database Repair Meets Algorithmic Fairness


Fairness is increasingly recognized as a critical component of machine learning systems. However, it is the underlying data on which these systems are trained that often reflect discrimination, suggesting a database repair problem. Existing treatments of fairness rely on statistical correlations that can be fooled by anomalies, such as Simpson’s paradox. Proposals for causality-based definitions of fairness can correctly model some of these situations, but they rely on background knowledge of the underlying causal models. In this paper, we formalize the situation as a database repair problem, proving sufficient conditions for fair classifiers in terms of admissible variables as opposed to a complete causal model. We show that these conditions correctly capture subtle fairness violations. We then use these conditions as the basis for database repair algorithms that provide provable fairness guarantees about classifiers trained on their training labels. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed techniques with experimental results.

To appear in SIGMOD record