Adaptive Data Analysis in a Balanced Adversarial Model

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Kobbi Nissim, Uri Stemmer, Eliad Tsfadia


In adaptive data analysis, a mechanism gets $n$ i.i.d. samples from an unknown distribution $\cal{D}$, andis required to provide accurate estimations to a sequence of adaptively chosen statistical queries with respect to $\cal{D}$.Hardt and Ullman (FOCS 2014) and Steinke and Ullman (COLT 2015) showed that in general, it is computationally hard to answer more than $\Theta(n^2)$ adaptive queries, assuming the existence of one-way functions. However, these negative results strongly rely on an adversarial model that significantly advantages the adversarial analyst over the mechanism, as the analyst, who chooses the adaptive queries, also chooses the underlying distribution $\cal{D}$. This imbalance raises questions with respect to the applicability of the obtained hardness results -- an analyst who has complete knowledge of the underlying distribution $\cal{D}$ would have little need, if at all, to issue statistical queries to a mechanism which only holds a finite number of samples from $\cal{D}$.We consider more restricted adversaries, called \emph{balanced}, where each such adversary consists of two separated algorithms: The \emph{sampler} who is the entity that chooses the distribution and provides the samples to the mechanism, and the \emph{analyst} who chooses the adaptive queries, but has no prior knowledge of the underlying distribution (and hence has no a priori advantage with respect to the mechanism). We improve the quality of previous lower bounds by revisiting them using an efficient \emph{balanced} adversary, under standard public-key cryptography assumptions. We show that these stronger hardness assumptions are unavoidable in the sense that any computationally bounded \emph{balanced} adversary that has the structure of all known attacks, implies the existence of public-key cryptography.