Ethical Adversaries: Towards Mitigating Unfairness with Adversarial Machine Learning

by   Pieter Delobelle, et al.

Machine learning is being integrated into a growing number of critical systems with far-reaching impacts on society. Unexpected behaviour and unfair decision processes are coming under increasing scrutiny due to this widespread use and also due to theoretical considerations. Individuals, as well as organisations, notice, test, and criticize unfair results to hold model designers and deployers accountable. This requires transparency and the possibility to describe, measure and, ideally, prove the 'fairness' of a system. This involves concepts such as fairness, transparency and accountability that will hopefully make machine learning more amenable to criticism and improvement proposals towards the fulfilment of societal goals. We concentrate on fairness, taking into account that both the transparency of the neural networks and accountability of actors and systems will require further methods. We offer a new framework that assists in mitigating unfair representations in the dataset used for training. Our framework relies on adversaries to improve fairness. First, it evaluates a model for unfairness w.r.t. protected attributes and ensures that an adversary cannot guess such attributes for a given outcome, by optimizing the model's parameters for fairness while limiting utility losses. Second, the framework leverages evasion attacks from adversarial machine learning to perform adversarial retraining with new examples unseen by the model. These two steps are iteratively applied until a significant improvement in fairness is obtained. We evaluated our framework on well-studied datasets in the fairness literature-including COMPAS-where it can surpass other approaches concerning demographic parity, equality of opportunity and also the model's utility. We also illustrate our findings on the subtle difficulties when mitigating unfairness and highlight how our framework can help model designers.


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