Hasso-Plattner-Institut
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Tobias Zieger (Vogel)

Self-Adaptive Data Quality - Automating Duplicate Detection

Carrying out business processes successfully is closely linked to the quality of the data inventory in an organization. Lacks in data quality lead to problems: Incorrect address data prevents (timely) shipments to customers. Erroneous orders lead to returns and thus to unnecessary effort. Wrong pricing forces companies to miss out on revenues or to impair customer satisfaction. If orders or customer records cannot be retrieved, complaint management takes longer. Due to erroneous inventories, too few or too much supplies might be reordered.

A special problem with data quality and the reason for many of the issues mentioned above are duplicates in databases. Duplicates are different representations of same real-world objects in a dataset. However these representations differ from each other and are for that reason hard to match by a computer. Moreover, the number of required comparisons to find those duplicates grows with the square of the dataset size, To cleanse the data, these duplicates have to be detected and removed. Duplicate detection is a very laborious process. To achieve good results, appropriate software has to be created and configured (similarity measures, partitioning keys, thresholds, etc.). Both require much manual effort and experience.

This thesis addresses automation of parameter selection for duplicate detection and presents several novel approaches that eliminate the need for human experience in parts of the duplicate detection process.

A pre-processing step is introduced that analyzes the datasets in question and classifies their attributes semantically. Not only do these annotations help understanding the respective datasets, but they also facilitate subsequent steps, for example, by selecting appropriate similarity measures or normalizing the data upfront. This approach works without schema information.

Following that, we show a partitioning technique that strongly reduces the number of pair comparisons for the duplicate detection process. The approach automatically finds particularly suitable partitioning keys that simultaneously allow for effective and efficient duplicate retrieval. By means of a user study, we demonstrate that this technique finds partitioning keys that outperform expert suggestions and additionally does not need manual configuration. Furthermore, this approach can be applied independently of the attribute types.

To measure the success of a duplicate detection process and to execute the described partitioning approach, a gold standard is required that provides information about the actual duplicates in a training dataset. This thesis presents a technique that uses existing duplicate detection results and crowdsourcing to create a near gold standard that can be used for the purposes above. Another part of the thesis describes and evaluates strategies how to reduce these crowdsourcing costs and to achieve a consensus with less effort.