Integrity Constraints Revisited: From Exact to Approximate Implication

Authors Batya Kenig, Dan Suciu

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Batya Kenig
  • University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
Dan Suciu
  • University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

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Batya Kenig and Dan Suciu. Integrity Constraints Revisited: From Exact to Approximate Implication. In 23rd International Conference on Database Theory (ICDT 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 155, pp. 18:1-18:20, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


Integrity constraints such as functional dependencies (FD), and multi-valued dependencies (MVD) are fundamental in database schema design. Likewise, probabilistic conditional independences (CI) are crucial for reasoning about multivariate probability distributions. The implication problem studies whether a set of constraints (antecedents) implies another constraint (consequent), and has been investigated in both the database and the AI literature, under the assumption that all constraints hold exactly. However, many applications today consider constraints that hold only approximately. In this paper we define an approximate implication as a linear inequality between the degree of satisfaction of the antecedents and consequent, and we study the relaxation problem: when does an exact implication relax to an approximate implication? We use information theory to define the degree of satisfaction, and prove several results. First, we show that any implication from a set of data dependencies (MVDs+FDs) can be relaxed to a simple linear inequality with a factor at most quadratic in the number of variables; when the consequent is an FD, the factor can be reduced to 1. Second, we prove that there exists an implication between CIs that does not admit any relaxation; however, we prove that every implication between CIs relaxes "in the limit". Finally, we show that the implication problem for differential constraints in market basket analysis also admits a relaxation with a factor equal to 1. Our results recover, and sometimes extend, several previously known results about the implication problem: implication of MVDs can be checked by considering only 2-tuple relations, and the implication of differential constraints for frequent item sets can be checked by considering only databases containing a single transaction.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Database theory
  • Theory of computation → Database constraints theory
  • Integrity constraints
  • The implication problem


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