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Enhancing Privacy and Fairness in Search Systems


Biega,  Joanna Asia
International Max Planck Research School, MPI for Informatics, Max Planck Society;
Databases and Information Systems, MPI for Informatics, Max Planck Society;

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Biega, J. A. (2019). Enhancing Privacy and Fairness in Search Systems. PhD Thesis, Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken. doi:10.22028/D291-27886.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-9AED-5
Following a period of expedited progress in the capabilities of digital systems, the society begins to realize that systems designed to assist people in various tasks can also harm individuals and society. Mediating access to information and explicitly or implicitly ranking people in increasingly many applications, search systems have a substantial potential to contribute to such unwanted outcomes. Since they collect vast amounts of data about both searchers and search subjects, they have the potential to violate the privacy of both of these groups of users. Moreover, in applications where rankings influence people's economic livelihood outside of the platform, such as sharing economy or hiring support websites, search engines have an immense economic power over their users in that they control user exposure in ranked results. This thesis develops new models and methods broadly covering different aspects of privacy and fairness in search systems for both searchers and search subjects. Specifically, it makes the following contributions: (1) We propose a model for computing individually fair rankings where search subjects get exposure proportional to their relevance. The exposure is amortized over time using constrained optimization to overcome searcher attention biases while preserving ranking utility. (2) We propose a model for computing sensitive search exposure where each subject gets to know the sensitive queries that lead to her profile in the top-k search results. The problem of finding exposing queries is technically modeled as reverse nearest neighbor search, followed by a weekly-supervised learning to rank model ordering the queries by privacy-sensitivity. (3) We propose a model for quantifying privacy risks from textual data in online communities. The method builds on a topic model where each topic is annotated by a crowdsourced sensitivity score, and privacy risks are associated with a user's relevance to sensitive topics. We propose relevance measures capturing different dimensions of user interest in a topic and show how they correlate with human risk perceptions. (4) We propose a model for privacy-preserving personalized search where search queries of different users are split and merged into synthetic profiles. The model mediates the privacy-utility trade-off by keeping semantically coherent fragments of search histories within individual profiles, while trying to minimize the similarity of any of the synthetic profiles to the original user profiles. The models are evaluated using information retrieval techniques and user studies over a variety of datasets, ranging from query logs, through social media and community question answering postings, to item listings from sharing economy platforms.