Fairness-aware Model-agnostic Positive and Unlabeled Learning

Ziwei Wu, Jingrui He

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


With the increasing application of machine learning in high-stake decision-making problems, potential algorithmic bias towards people from certain social groups poses negative impacts on individuals and our society at large. In the real-world scenario, many such problems involve positive and unlabeled data such as medical diagnosis, criminal risk assessment and recommender systems. For instance, in medical diagnosis, only the diagnosed diseases will be recorded (positive) while others will not (unlabeled). Despite the large amount of existing work on fairness-aware machine learning in the (semi-)supervised and unsupervised settings, the fairness issue is largely under-explored in the aforementioned Positive and Unlabeled Learning (PUL) context, where it is usually more severe. In this paper, to alleviate this tension, we propose a fairness-aware PUL method named FairPUL. In particular, for binary classification over individuals from two populations, we aim to achieve similar true positive rates and false positive rates in both populations as our fairness metric. Based on the analysis of the optimal fair classifier for PUL, we design a model-agnostic post-processing framework, leveraging both the positive examples and unlabeled ones. Our framework is proven to be statistically consistent in terms of both the classification error and the fairness metric. Experiments on the synthetic and real-world data sets demonstrate that our framework outperforms state-of-the-art in both PUL and fair classification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of 2022 5th ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, FAccT 2022
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781450393522
StatePublished - Jun 21 2022
Event5th ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, FAccT 2022 - Virtual, Online, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Jun 21 2022Jun 24 2022

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Conference5th ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, FAccT 2022
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of
CityVirtual, Online


  • Fairness
  • Machine Learning
  • Positive and Unlabeled Learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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