Generating Private Synthetic Data with Genetic Algorithms

by   Terrance Liu, et al.

We study the problem of efficiently generating differentially private synthetic data that approximate the statistical properties of an underlying sensitive dataset. In recent years, there has been a growing line of work that approaches this problem using first-order optimization techniques. However, such techniques are restricted to optimizing differentiable objectives only, severely limiting the types of analyses that can be conducted. For example, first-order mechanisms have been primarily successful in approximating statistical queries only in the form of marginals for discrete data domains. In some cases, one can circumvent such issues by relaxing the task's objective to maintain differentiability. However, even when possible, these approaches impose a fundamental limitation in which modifications to the minimization problem become additional sources of error. Therefore, we propose Private-GSD, a private genetic algorithm based on zeroth-order optimization heuristics that do not require modifying the original objective. As a result, it avoids the aforementioned limitations of first-order optimization. We empirically evaluate Private-GSD against baseline algorithms on data derived from the American Community Survey across a variety of statistics–otherwise known as statistical queries–both for discrete and real-valued attributes. We show that Private-GSD outperforms the state-of-the-art methods on non-differential queries while matching accuracy in approximating differentiable ones.


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