Probabilistic Inference and Differential Privacy

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 23 (NIPS 2010)

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Oliver Williams, Frank Mcsherry


We identify and investigate a strong connection between probabilistic inference and differential privacy, the latter being a recent privacy definition that permits only indirect observation of data through noisy measurement. Previous research on differential privacy has focused on designing measurement processes whose output is likely to be useful on its own. We consider the potential of applying probabilistic inference to the measurements and measurement process to derive posterior distributions over the data sets and model parameters thereof. We find that probabilistic inference can improve accuracy, integrate multiple observations, measure uncertainty, and even provide posterior distributions over quantities that were not directly measured.