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A New Notion of Individually Fair Clustering: $\alpha$-Equitable $k$-Center

Darshan Chakrabarti · John Dickerson · Seyed Esmaeili · Aravind Srinivasan · Leonidas Tsepenekas

Abstract: Clustering is a fundamental problem in unsupervised machine learning, and due to its numerous societal implications fair variants of it have recently received significant attention. In this work we introduce a novel definition of individual fairness for clustering problems. Specifically, in our model, each point $j$ has a set of other points $\mathcal{S}_j$ that it perceives as similar to itself, and it feels that it is being fairly treated if the quality of service it receives in the solution is $\alpha$-close (in a multiplicative sense, for some given $\alpha \geq 1$) to that of the points in $\mathcal{S}_j$. We begin our study by answering questions regarding the combinatorial structure of the problem, namely for what values of $\alpha$ the problem is well-defined, and what the behavior of the Price of Fairness (PoF) for it is. For the well-defined region of $\alpha$, we provide efficient and easily-implementable approximation algorithms for the $k$-center objective, which in certain cases also enjoy bounded-PoF guarantees. We finally complement our analysis by an extensive suite of experiments that validates the effectiveness of our theoretical results.

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