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Authors:Daniil Dmitriev, Rares-Darius Buhai, Stefan Tiegel, Alexander Wolters, Gleb Novikov, Amartya Sanyal, David Steurer, Fanny Yang

Abstract:We study the problem of estimating the means of well-separated mixtures when an adversary may add arbitrary outliers. While strong guarantees are available when the outlier fraction is significantly smaller than the minimum mixing weight, much less is known when outliers may crowd out low-weight clusters - a setting we refer to as list-decodable mixture learning (LD-ML). In this case, adversarial outliers can simulate additional spurious mixture components. Hence, if all means of the mixture must be recovered up to a small error in the output list, the list size needs to be larger than the number of (true) components. We propose an algorithm that obtains order-optimal error guarantees for each mixture mean with a minimal list-size overhead, significantly improving upon list-decodable mean estimation, the only existing method that is applicable for LD-ML. Although improvements are observed even when the mixture is non-separated, our algorithm achieves particularly strong guarantees when the mixture is separated: it can leverage the mixture structure to partially cluster the samples before carefully iterating a base learner for list-decodable mean estimation at different scales.

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Abstract:We give the first polynomial-time, differentially node-private, and robust algorithm for estimating the edge density of Erd\H{o}s-R\'enyi random graphs and their generalization, inhomogeneous random graphs. We further prove information-theoretical lower bounds, showing that the error rate of our algorithm is optimal up to logarithmic factors. Previous algorithms incur either exponential running time or suboptimal error rates. Two key ingredients of our algorithm are (1) a new sum-of-squares algorithm for robust edge density estimation, and (2) the reduction from privacy to robustness based on sum-of-squares exponential mechanisms due to Hopkins et al. (STOC 2023).

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Abstract:We develop the first pure node-differentially-private algorithms for learning stochastic block models and for graphon estimation with polynomial running time for any constant number of blocks. The statistical utility guarantees match those of the previous best information-theoretic (exponential-time) node-private mechanisms for these problems. The algorithm is based on an exponential mechanism for a score function defined in terms of a sum-of-squares relaxation whose level depends on the number of blocks. The key ingredients of our results are (1) a characterization of the distance between the block graphons in terms of a quadratic optimization over the polytope of doubly stochastic matrices, (2) a general sum-of-squares convergence result for polynomial optimization over arbitrary polytopes, and (3) a general approach to perform Lipschitz extensions of score functions as part of the sum-of-squares algorithmic paradigm.

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Abstract:We study robust community detection in the context of node-corrupted stochastic block model, where an adversary can arbitrarily modify all the edges incident to a fraction of the $n$ vertices. We present the first polynomial-time algorithm that achieves weak recovery at the Kesten-Stigum threshold even in the presence of a small constant fraction of corrupted nodes. Prior to this work, even state-of-the-art robust algorithms were known to break under such node corruption adversaries, when close to the Kesten-Stigum threshold. We further extend our techniques to the $Z_2$ synchronization problem, where our algorithm reaches the optimal recovery threshold in the presence of similar strong adversarial perturbations. The key ingredient of our algorithm is a novel identifiability proof that leverages the push-out effect of the Grothendieck norm of principal submatrices.

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Abstract:In this work, we study the problem of robustly estimating the mean/location parameter of distributions without moment bounds. For a large class of distributions satisfying natural symmetry constraints we give a sequence of algorithms that can efficiently estimate its location without incurring dimension-dependent factors in the error. Concretely, suppose an adversary can arbitrarily corrupt an $\varepsilon$-fraction of the observed samples. For every $k \in \mathbb{N}$, we design an estimator using time and samples $\tilde{O}({d^k})$ such that the dependence of the error on the corruption level $\varepsilon$ is an additive factor of $O(\varepsilon^{1-\frac{1}{2k}})$. The dependence on other problem parameters is also nearly optimal. Our class contains products of arbitrary symmetric one-dimensional distributions as well as elliptical distributions, a vast generalization of the Gaussian distribution. Examples include product Cauchy distributions and multi-variate $t$-distributions. In particular, even the first moment might not exist. We provide the first efficient algorithms for this class of distributions. Previously, such results where only known under boundedness assumptions on the moments of the distribution and in particular, are provably impossible in the absence of symmetry [KSS18, CTBJ22]. For the class of distributions we consider, all previous estimators either require exponential time or incur error depending on the dimension. Our algorithms are based on a generalization of the filtering technique [DK22]. We show how this machinery can be combined with Huber-loss-based approach to work with projections of the noise. Moreover, we show how sum-of-squares proofs can be used to obtain algorithmic guarantees even for distributions without first moment. We believe that this approach may find other application in future works.

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Authors:Hongjie Chen, Vincent Cohen-Addad, Tommaso d'Orsi, Alessandro Epasto, Jacob Imola, David Steurer, Stefan Tiegel

Abstract:We introduce general tools for designing efficient private estimation algorithms, in the high-dimensional settings, whose statistical guarantees almost match those of the best known non-private algorithms. To illustrate our techniques, we consider two problems: recovery of stochastic block models and learning mixtures of spherical Gaussians. For the former, we present the first efficient $(\epsilon, \delta)$-differentially private algorithm for both weak recovery and exact recovery. Previously known algorithms achieving comparable guarantees required quasi-polynomial time. For the latter, we design an $(\epsilon, \delta)$-differentially private algorithm that recovers the centers of the $k$-mixture when the minimum separation is at least $ O(k^{1/t}\sqrt{t})$. For all choices of $t$, this algorithm requires sample complexity $n\geq k^{O(1)}d^{O(t)}$ and time complexity $(nd)^{O(t)}$. Prior work required minimum separation at least $O(\sqrt{k})$ as well as an explicit upper bound on the Euclidean norm of the centers.

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Abstract:We consider estimation models of the form $Y=X^*+N$, where $X^*$ is some $m$-dimensional signal we wish to recover, and $N$ is symmetrically distributed noise that may be unbounded in all but a small $\alpha$ fraction of the entries. We introduce a family of algorithms that under mild assumptions recover the signal $X^*$ in all estimation problems for which there exists a sum-of-squares algorithm that succeeds in recovering the signal $X^*$ when the noise $N$ is Gaussian. This essentially shows that it is enough to design a sum-of-squares algorithm for an estimation problem with Gaussian noise in order to get the algorithm that works with the symmetric noise model. Our framework extends far beyond previous results on symmetric noise models and is even robust to adversarial perturbations. As concrete examples, we investigate two problems for which no efficient algorithms were known to work for heavy-tailed noise: tensor PCA and sparse PCA. For the former, our algorithm recovers the principal component in polynomial time when the signal-to-noise ratio is at least $\tilde{O}(n^{p/4}/\alpha)$, that matches (up to logarithmic factors) current best known algorithmic guarantees for Gaussian noise. For the latter, our algorithm runs in quasipolynomial time and matches the state-of-the-art guarantees for quasipolynomial time algorithms in the case of Gaussian noise. Using a reduction from the planted clique problem, we provide evidence that the quasipolynomial time is likely to be necessary for sparse PCA with symmetric noise. In our proofs we use bounds on the covering numbers of sets of pseudo-expectations, which we obtain by certifying in sum-of-squares upper bounds on the Gaussian complexities of sets of solutions. This approach for bounding the covering numbers of sets of pseudo-expectations may be interesting in its own right and may find other application in future works.

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Abstract:We develop the first fast spectral algorithm to decompose a random third-order tensor over R^d of rank up to O(d^{3/2}/polylog(d)). Our algorithm only involves simple linear algebra operations and can recover all components in time O(d^{6.05}) under the current matrix multiplication time. Prior to this work, comparable guarantees could only be achieved via sum-of-squares [Ma, Shi, Steurer 2016]. In contrast, fast algorithms [Hopkins, Schramm, Shi, Steurer 2016] could only decompose tensors of rank at most O(d^{4/3}/polylog(d)). Our algorithmic result rests on two key ingredients. A clean lifting of the third-order tensor to a sixth-order tensor, which can be expressed in the language of tensor networks. A careful decomposition of the tensor network into a sequence of rectangular matrix multiplications, which allows us to have a fast implementation of the algorithm.

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Abstract:We consider mixtures of $k\geq 2$ Gaussian components with unknown means and unknown covariance (identical for all components) that are well-separated, i.e., distinct components have statistical overlap at most $k^{-C}$ for a large enough constant $C\ge 1$. Previous statistical-query lower bounds [DKS17] give formal evidence that even distinguishing such mixtures from (pure) Gaussians may be exponentially hard (in $k$). We show that this kind of hardness can only appear if mixing weights are allowed to be exponentially small, and that for polynomially lower bounded mixing weights non-trivial algorithmic guarantees are possible in quasi-polynomial time. Concretely, we develop an algorithm based on the sum-of-squares method with running time quasi-polynomial in the minimum mixing weight. The algorithm can reliably distinguish between a mixture of $k\ge 2$ well-separated Gaussian components and a (pure) Gaussian distribution. As a certificate, the algorithm computes a bipartition of the input sample that separates a pair of mixture components, i.e., both sides of the bipartition contain most of the sample points of at least one component. For the special case of colinear means, our algorithm outputs a $k$ clustering of the input sample that is approximately consistent with the components of the mixture. A significant challenge for our results is that they appear to be inherently sensitive to small fractions of adversarial outliers unlike most previous results for Gaussian mixtures. The reason is that such outliers can simulate exponentially small mixing weights even for mixtures with polynomially lower bounded mixing weights. A key technical ingredient is a characterization of separating directions for well-separated Gaussian components in terms of ratios of polynomials that correspond to moments of two carefully chosen orders logarithmic in the minimum mixing weight.

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Abstract:We develop an efficient algorithm for weak recovery in a robust version of the stochastic block model. The algorithm matches the statistical guarantees of the best known algorithms for the vanilla version of the stochastic block model. In this sense, our results show that there is no price of robustness in the stochastic block model. Our work is heavily inspired by recent work of Banks, Mohanty, and Raghavendra (SODA 2021) that provided an efficient algorithm for the corresponding distinguishing problem. Our algorithm and its analysis significantly depart from previous ones for robust recovery. A key challenge is the peculiar optimization landscape underlying our algorithm: The planted partition may be far from optimal in the sense that completely unrelated solutions could achieve the same objective value. This phenomenon is related to the push-out effect at the BBP phase transition for PCA. To the best of our knowledge, our algorithm is the first to achieve robust recovery in the presence of such a push-out effect in a non-asymptotic setting. Our algorithm is an instantiation of a framework based on convex optimization (related to but distinct from sum-of-squares), which may be useful for other robust matrix estimation problems. A by-product of our analysis is a general technique that boosts the probability of success (over the randomness of the input) of an arbitrary robust weak-recovery algorithm from constant (or slowly vanishing) probability to exponentially high probability.

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