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Privacy via the Johnson-Lindenstrauss Transform

Krishnaram Kenthapadi, Aleksandra Korolova, Ilya Mironov, and Nina Mishra


Suppose that party A collects private information about its users, where each user's data is represented as a bit vector. Suppose that party B has a proprietary data mining algorithm that requires estimating the distance between users, such as clustering or nearest neighbors. We ask if it is possible for party A to publish some information about each user so that B can estimate the distance between users without being able to infer any private bit of a user. Our method involves projecting each user's representation into a random, lower-dimensional space via a sparse Johnson-Lindenstrauss transform and then adding Gaussian noise to each entry of the lower-dimensional representation. We show that the method preserves differential privacy---where the more privacy is desired, the larger the variance of the Gaussian noise. Further, we show how to approximate the true distances between users via only the lower-dimensional, perturbed data. Finally, we consider other perturbation methods such as randomized response and draw comparisons to sketch-based methods. While the goal of releasing user-specific data to third parties is more broad than preserving distances, this work shows that distance computations with privacy is an achievable goal.


Publication typeArticle
Published inJournal of Privacy and Confidentiality
Volume5 (1)
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