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Description

An approximate membership data structure is a randomized data structure for representing a set which supports membership queries. It allows for a small false positive error rate but has no false negative errors. Such data structures were first introduced by Bloom~cite{Bloom70} in the 1970's, and have since had numerous applications, mainly in distributed systems, database systems, and networks.

The algorithm of Bloom is quite effective: it can store a set $S$ of size $n$ by using only $approx 1.44 n log_2(1/epsilon)$ bits while having false positive error $epsilon$. This is within a constant factor of the entropy lower bound of $n log_2(1/epsilon)$ for storing such sets~cite{CarterFlGiMaWe78}. Closing this gap is an important open problem, as Bloom filters are widely used is situations were storage is at a premium.

Bloom filters have another property: they are dynamic. That is, they support the iterative insertions of up to $n$ elements. In fact, if one removes this requirement, there exist static data structures which receive the entire set at once and can almost achieve the entropy lower bound~cite{DietzfelbingerPa08,Porat09:bloom_static}; they require only $n log_2(1/epsilon)(1+o(1))$ bits.

Our main result is a new lower bound for the memory requirements of any dynamic approximate membership data structure. We show that for any constant $epsilon>0$, any such data structure which achieves false positive error rate of $epsilon$ must use at least $C(epsilon) cdot n log_2(1/epsilon)$ memory bits, where $C(epsilon)>1$ depends only on $epsilon$. This shows that the entropy lower bound cannot be achieved by dynamic data structures for any constant error rate.

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