Jorge Cortés


Differentially private average consensus: obstructions, trade-offs, and optimal algorithm design
E. Nozari, P. Tallapragada, J. Cortés
Automatica 81 (2017), 221-231


This paper studies the multi-agent average consensus problem under the requirement of differential privacy of the agents' initial states against an adversary that has access to all messages. As a fundamental limitation, we first establish that a differentially private consensus algorithm cannot guarantee convergence of the agents' states to the exact average in distribution, which in turn implies the same impossibility for other stronger notions of convergence. This result motives our design of a novel differentially private Laplacian consensus algorithm in which agents linearly perturb their state-transition and message-generating functions with exponentially decaying Laplace noise. We prove that our algorithm converges almost surely to an unbiased estimate of the agents' initial states, compute the exponential mean-square rate of convergence, and formally characterize its differential privacy properties. Furthermore, we also find explicit optimal values of the design parameters that minimize the variance of the algorithm's convergence point around the exact average. Various simulations illustrate our results.

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