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Õptimal Differentially Private Learning of Thresholds and Quasi-Concave Optimization

Xin Lyu
Jelani Nelson
STOC 2023


The problem of learning threshold functions is a fundamental one in machine learning. Classical learning theory implies sample complexity of $O(\xi^{-1} \log(1/\beta))$ (for generalization error $\xi$ with confidence $1-\beta$). The private version of the problem, however, is more challenging and in particular, the sample complexity must depend on the size $|X|$ of the domain. Progress on quantifying this dependence, via lower and upper bounds, was made in a line of works over the past decade. In this paper, we finally close the gap for approximate-DP and provide a nearly tight upper bound of $\widetilde{O}(\log^* |X|)$, which matches a lower bound by Alon et al (that applies even with improper learning) and improves over a prior upper bound of $\widetilde{O}((\log^* |X|)^{1.5})$ by Kaplan et al. We also provide matching upper and lower bounds of $\tilde{\Theta}(2^{\log^*|X|})$ for the additive error of private quasi-concave optimization (a related and more general problem). Our improvement is achieved via the novel Reorder-Slice-Compute paradigm for private data analysis which we believe will have further applications.