FairLISA: Fair User Modeling with Limited Sensitive Attributes Information

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

Bibtex Paper


zheng zhang, Qi Liu, Hao Jiang, Fei Wang, Yan Zhuang, Le Wu, Weibo Gao, Enhong Chen


User modeling techniques profile users' latent characteristics (e.g., preference) from their observed behaviors, and play a crucial role in decision-making. Unfortunately, traditional user models may unconsciously capture biases related to sensitive attributes (e.g., gender) from behavior data, even when this sensitive information is not explicitly provided. This can lead to unfair issues and discrimination against certain groups based on these sensitive attributes. Recent studies have been proposed to improve fairness by explicitly decorrelating user modeling results and sensitive attributes. However, most existing approaches assume that fully sensitive attribute labels are available in the training set, which is unrealistic due to collection limitations like privacy concerns, and hence bear the limitation of performance. In this paper, we focus on a practical situation with limited sensitive data and propose a novel FairLISA framework, which can efficiently utilize data with known and unknown sensitive attributes to facilitate fair model training. We first propose a novel theoretical perspective to build the relationship between data with both known and unknown sensitive attributes with the fairness objective. Then, based on this, we provide a general adversarial framework to effectively leverage the whole user data for fair user modeling. We conduct experiments on representative user modeling tasks including recommender system and cognitive diagnosis. The results demonstrate that our FairLISA can effectively improve fairness while retaining high accuracy in scenarios with different ratios of missing sensitive attributes.