Generating Fair Universal Representations Using Adversarial Models

Peter Kairouz, Jiachun Liao, Chong Huang, Maunil Vyas, Monica Welfert, Lalitha Sankar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We present a data-driven framework for learning fair universal representations (FUR) that guarantee statistical fairness for any learning task that may not be known a priori. Our framework leverages recent advances in adversarial learning to allow a data holder to learn representations in which a set of sensitive attributes are decoupled from the rest of the dataset. We formulate this as a constrained minimax game between an encoder and an adversary where the constraint ensures a measure of usefulness (utility) of the representation. The resulting problem is that of censoring, i.e., finding a representation that is least informative about the sensitive attributes given a utility constraint. For appropriately chosen adversarial loss functions, our censoring framework precisely clarifies the optimal adversarial strategy against strong information-theoretic adversaries; it also achieves the fairness measure of demographic parity for the resulting constrained representations. We evaluate the performance of our proposed framework on both synthetic and publicly available datasets. For these datasets, we use two tradeoff measures: censoring vs. representation fidelity and fairness vs. utility for downstream tasks, to amply demonstrate that multiple sensitive features can be effectively censored even as the resulting fair representations ensure accuracy for multiple downstream tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1970-1985
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security
StatePublished - 2022


  • Fair universal representations
  • algorithmic fairness
  • generative adversarial networks
  • minimax games

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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