What Our Choices Say About Our Preferences?

Krzysztof Grining, Marek Klonowski, Małgorzata Sulkowska

Taking online decisions is a part of everyday life. Think of buying a house, parking a car or taking part in an auction. We often take those decisions publicly, which may breach our privacy - a party observing our choices may learn a lot about our preferences. In this paper we investigate online stopping algorithms from privacy preserving perspective, using mathematically rigorous differential privacy notion. In differentially private algorithms there is always an issue of balancing the privacy and utility. In this regime, in most cases, having both optimality and high level of privacy at the same time is impossible. We propose a mechanism to achieve a controllable trade-off, quantified by a parameter, between the accuracy of the online algorithm and its privacy. Depending on the parameter, our mechanism can be optimal with weaker differential privacy or suboptimal, yet more privacy-preserving. We conduct a detailed accuracy and privacy analysis of our mechanism applied to the optimal algorithm for the classical secretary problem. Thereby we make a fusion of two canonical models from two different research areas - optimal stopping and differential privacy.

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