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An Automatic Blocking Mechanism for Large-Scale De-duplication Tasks

Anish Das Sarma
Ankur Jain
Ashwin Machanavajjhala
Philip Bohannon
CIKM (2012)


De-duplication---identification of distinct records referring to the same real-world entity---is a well-known challenge in data integration. Since very large datasets prohibit the comparison of every pair of records, {\em blocking} has been identified as a technique of dividing the dataset for pairwise comparisons, thereby trading off {\em recall} of identified duplicates for {\em efficiency}. Traditional de-duplication tasks, while challenging, typically involved a fixed schema such as Census data or medical records. However, with the presence of large, diverse sets of structured data on the web and the need to organize it effectively on content portals, de-duplication systems need to scale in a new dimension to handle a large number of schemas, tasks and data sets, while handling ever larger problem sizes. In addition, when working in a map-reduce framework it is important that canopy formation be implemented as a {\em hash function}, making the canopy design problem more challenging. We present CBLOCK, a system that addresses these challenges. CBLOCK learns hash functions automatically from attribute domains and a labeled dataset consisting of duplicates. Subsequently, CBLOCK expresses blocking functions using a hierarchical tree structure composed of atomic hash functions. The application may guide the automated blocking process based on architectural constraints, such as by specifying a maximum size of each block (based on memory requirements), impose disjointness of blocks (in a grid environment), or specify a particular objective function trading off recall for efficiency. As a post-processing step to automatically generated blocks, CBLOCK {\em rolls-up} smaller blocks to increase recall. We present experimental results on two large-scale de-duplication datasets at Yahoo!---consisting of over 140K movies and 40K restaurants respectively---and demonstrate the utility of CBLOCK.

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