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ArXiv Preprint

The recent rapid advances in machine learning technologies largely depend on the vast richness of data available today, in terms of both the quantity and the rich content contained within. For example, biometric data such as images and voices could reveal people's attributes like age, gender, sentiment, and origin, whereas location/motion data could be used to infer people's activity levels, transportation modes, and life habits. Along with the new services and applications enabled by such technological advances, various governmental policies are put in place to regulate such data usage and protect people's privacy and rights. As a result, data owners often opt for simple data obfuscation (e.g., blur people's faces in images) or withholding data altogether, which leads to severe data quality degradation and greatly limits the data's potential utility. Aiming for a sophisticated mechanism which gives data owners fine-grained control while retaining the maximal degree of data utility, we propose Multi-attribute Selective Suppression, or MaSS, a general framework for performing precisely targeted data surgery to simultaneously suppress any selected set of attributes while preserving the rest for downstream machine learning tasks. MaSS learns a data modifier through adversarial games between two sets of networks, where one is aimed at suppressing selected attributes, and the other ensures the retention of the rest of the attributes via general contrastive loss as well as explicit classification metrics. We carried out an extensive evaluation of our proposed method using multiple datasets from different domains including facial images, voice audio, and video clips, and obtained promising results in MaSS' generalizability and capability of suppressing targeted attributes without negatively affecting the data's usability in other downstream ML tasks.

Chun-Fu Chen, Shaohan Hu, Zhonghao Shi, Prateek Gulati, Bill Moriarty, Marco Pistoia, Vincenzo Piuri, Pierangela Samarati