AIES 2020
Conference paper

Data augmentation for discrimination prevention and bias disambiguation

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Machine learning models are prone to biased decisions due to biases in the datasets they are trained on. In this paper, we introduce a novel data augmentation technique to create a fairer dataset for model training that could also lend itself to understanding the type of bias existing in the dataset i.e. if bias arises from a lack of representation for a particular group (sampling bias) or if it arises because of human bias reflected in the labels (prejudice based bias). Given a dataset involving a protected attribute with a privileged and unprivileged group, we create an "ideal world" dataset: for every data sample, we create a new sample having the same features (except the protected attribute(s)) and label as the original sample but with the opposite protected attribute value. The synthetic data points are sorted in order of their proximity to the original training distribution and added successively to the real dataset to create intermediate datasets. We theoretically show that two different notions of fairness: statistical parity difference (independence) and average odds difference (separation) always change in the same direction using such an augmentation. We also show submodularity of the proposed fairness-aware augmentation approach that enables an efficient greedy algorithm. We empirically study the effect of training models on the intermediate datasets and show that this technique reduces the two bias measures while keeping the accuracy nearly constant for three datasets.We then discuss the implications of this study on the disambiguation of sample bias and prejudice based bias and discuss how pre-processing techniques should be evaluated in general. The proposed method can be used by policy makers-who want to use unbiased datasets to train machine learning models for their applications-to add a subset of synthetic points to an extent that they are comfortable with to mitigate unwanted bias.