Keywords: [ differential privacy ] [ mechanism design ] [ algorithmic game theory ] [ optimal data acquisition ]
We study the design of optimal Bayesian data acquisition mechanisms for a platform interested in estimating the mean of a distribution by collecting data from privacy-conscious users. In our setting, users have heterogeneous sensitivities for two types of privacy losses corresponding to local and central differential privacy measures. The local privacy loss is due to the leakage of a user's information when she shares her data with the platform, and the central privacy loss is due to the released estimate by the platform to the public. The users share their data in exchange for a payment (e.g., through monetary transfers or services) that compensates for their privacy losses. The platform does not know the privacy sensitivity of users and must design a mechanism to solicit their preferences and then deliver both local and central privacy guarantees while minimizing the estimation error plus the expected payment to users. We first establish minimax lower bounds for the estimation error, given a vector of privacy guarantees, and show that a linear estimator is (near) optimal. We then turn to our main goal: designing an optimal data acquisition mechanism. We establish that the design of such mechanisms in a Bayesian setting (where the platform knows the distribution of users' sensitivities and not their realizations) can be cast as a nonconvex optimization problem. Additionally, for the class of linear estimators, we prove that finding the optimal mechanism admits a Polynomial Time Approximation Scheme.