What’s in a Name? Reducing Bias in Bios without Access to Protected Attributes

Alexey Romanov, Maria De-Arteaga, Hanna Wallach, Jennifer Chayes, Christian Borgs, Alexandra Chouldechova, Sahin Geyik, Krishnaram Kenthapadi, Anna Rumshisky, Adam Kalai


Abstract
There is a growing body of work that proposes methods for mitigating bias in machine learning systems. These methods typically rely on access to protected attributes such as race, gender, or age. However, this raises two significant challenges: (1) protected attributes may not be available or it may not be legal to use them, and (2) it is often desirable to simultaneously consider multiple protected attributes, as well as their intersections. In the context of mitigating bias in occupation classification, we propose a method for discouraging correlation between the predicted probability of an individual’s true occupation and a word embedding of their name. This method leverages the societal biases that are encoded in word embeddings, eliminating the need for access to protected attributes. Crucially, it only requires access to individuals’ names at training time and not at deployment time. We evaluate two variations of our proposed method using a large-scale dataset of online biographies. We find that both variations simultaneously reduce race and gender biases, with almost no reduction in the classifier’s overall true positive rate.
Anthology ID:
N19-1424
Volume:
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)
Month:
June
Year:
2019
Address:
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Venue:
NAACL
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
4187–4195
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/N19-1424
DOI:
10.18653/v1/N19-1424
Award:
 Best Thematic Paper
Bibkey:
Copy Citation:
PDF:
https://aclanthology.org/N19-1424.pdf
Video:
 https://vimeo.com/365132300