A Data Prism: Semi-Verified Learning in the Small-Alpha Regime

Michela Meister, Gregory Valiant

We consider a model of unreliable or crowdsourced data where there is an underlying set of $n$ binary variables, each evaluator contributes a (possibly unreliable or adversarial) estimate of the values of some subset of $r$ of the variables, and the learner is given the true value of a constant number of variables. We show that, provided an $\alpha$-fraction of the evaluators are "good" (either correct, or with independent noise rate $p < 1/2$), then the true values of a $(1-\epsilon)$ fraction of the $n$ underlying variables can be deduced as long as $\alpha > 1/(2-2p)^r$. This setting can be viewed as an instance of the semi-verified learning model introduced in [CSV17], which explores the tradeoff between the number of items evaluated by each worker and the fraction of good evaluators. Our results require the number of evaluators to be extremely large, $>n^r$, although our algorithm runs in linear time, $O_{r,\epsilon}(n)$, given query access to the large dataset of evaluations. This setting and results can also be viewed as examining a general class of semi-adversarial CSPs with a planted assignment. This parameter regime where the fraction of reliable data is small, is relevant to a number of practical settings. For example, settings where one has a large dataset of customer preferences, with each customer specifying preferences for a small (constant) number of items, and the goal is to ascertain the preferences of a specific demographic of interest. Our results show that this large dataset (which lacks demographic information) can be leveraged together with the preferences of the demographic of interest for a constant number of randomly selected items, to recover an accurate estimate of the entire set of preferences. In this sense, our results can be viewed as a "data prism" allowing one to extract the behavior of specific cohorts from a large, mixed, dataset.

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