Purdue University Graduate School

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posted on 2023-08-17, 13:59 authored by Jiajun LiangJiajun Liang

How to set privacy parameters is a crucial problem for the consistent application of DP in practice. The current privacy parameters do not provide direct suggestions for this problem. On the other hand, different databases may have varying degrees of information leakage, allowing attackers to enhance their attacks with the available information. This dissertation provides an additional interpretation of the current DP notions by introducing a framework that directly considers the worst-case average failure probability of attackers under different levels of knowledge.

To achieve this, we introduce a novel measure of attacker knowledge and establish a dual relationship between (type I error, type II error) and (prior, average failure probability). By leveraging this framework, we propose an interpretable paradigm to consistently set privacy parameters on different databases with varying levels of leaked information.

Furthermore, we characterize the minimax limit of private parameter estimation, driven by $1/(n(1-2p))^2+1/n$, where $p$ represents the worst-case probability risk and $n$ is the number of data points. This characterization is more interpretable than the current lower bound $\min{1/(n\epsilon^2),1/(n\delta^2)}+1/n$ on $(\epsilon,\delta)$-DP. Additionally, we identify the phase transition of private parameter estimation based on this limit and provide suggestions for protocol designs to achieve optimal private estimations.

Last, we consider a federated learning setting where the data are stored in a distributed manner and privacy-preserving interactions are required. We extend the proposed interpretation to federated learning, considering two scenarios: protecting against privacy breaches against local nodes and protecting privacy breaches against the center. Specifically, we consider a non-convex sparse federated parameter estimation problem and apply it to the generalized linear models. We tackle two challenges in this setting. Firstly, we encounter the issue of initialization due to the privacy requirements that limit the number of queries to the database. Secondly, we overcome the heterogeneity in the distribution among local nodes to identify low-dimensional structures.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Statistics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Qifan Song

Additional Committee Member 2

Jordan Awan

Additional Committee Member 3

Christopher W. Clifton

Additional Committee Member 4

Faming Liang

Additional Committee Member 5

Junwei Lu