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Network Working Group J. Curran Request for Comments: 1355 NNSC FYI: 15 A. Marine

                                                          August 1992
     Privacy and Accuracy Issues in Network Information Center

Status of This Memo

 This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
 not specify an Internet standard.  Distribution of this memo is


 This document provides a set of guidelines for the administration and
 operation of public Network Information Center (NIC) databases.  The
 purpose is to formalize procedures for the responsible handling of
 the personal and organizational information maintained by NICs in
 publically accessible databases, and to improve the accuracy and
 accessibility of such data where appropriate.


 This document is based upon the work of the Network Information
 Services Infrastructure (NISI) working group in the User Services
 Area of the IETF.  Thanks are due to the members of this working
 group who contributed ideas and comments, especially to Glee Cady
 (University of Michigan) for her significant contributions.  Special
 thanks are also extended to Steve Crocker (TIS) for his guidance in
 this area.  Due to the natural overlap between NIC databases and
 public user directories, this document also references concepts
 contained in the North American Directory Forum's (NADF) "User Bill
 of Rights for Entries and Listings in the Public Directory" (RFC

1. Purpose

 The purpose of this document is to consider the privacy and accuracy
 issues that result from many NIC databases being publicly accessible.
 This document considers only generic concerns about such systems; it
 intentionally does not make recommendations for specific databases on
 the Internet.  Clearly, it is the responsibility of each NIC to
 determine what procedures should apply for each of its databases.
 The document discusses the obligations a NIC that maintains such a

Curran & Marine [Page 1] RFC 1355 Privacy and Accuracy in NIC Databases August 1992

 database has towards those about whom data appears in the database.
 These obligations apply to database entries that contain information
 that is publically accessible to Internet users.

2. Background and Organization

 In fulfilling the functions of a Network Information Center, each NIC
 needs to collect and distribute a variety of information about the
 network it serves.  Much of the information handled by a NIC is
 "directory" information that provides pointers to people,
 organizations, and resources throughout a network.  The use of
 publically accessible databases to disseminate such data is seen as
 beneficial to the Internet because it allows efficient information
 retrieval by users, Network Operation Centers (NOCs), and other NICs.
 This document is organized into two parts.  The first part contains
 recommendations for preventing unauthorized disclosure of information
 in NIC databases.  The second part recommends formal accuracy
 guidelines for NIC databases.

3. NIC Database Privacy

 The existence of publically accessible databases brings up a number
 of significant questions regarding controls over the gathering and
 distribution of the data.  It is important that these concerns are
 addressed prior to the wide-scale deployment of a public NIC database
 or a NIC risks having to retrofit an established system to formal
 guidelines regarding such controls when they are finally available.
 For each publically accessible database that a NIC manages, the NIC
 needs to provide a clear statement of the purpose of the database,
 the types of information it contains, and the privacy policy that
 applies to the information stored within it.  In general, this policy
 should inform people or organizations listed in the database of the
 content and purpose of their database entries.  Specifically, the
 privacy policy should:
    1) Describe why the NIC needs the information and how it will use
       the information.
    2) List of all the information being stored in an entry.
    3) Detail which information will be made available outside of the
       NIC, to whom it will be made available, and for what purpose.
    4) Provide for notification of any person or organization added
       to the database at the request of a third party.

Curran & Marine [Page 2] RFC 1355 Privacy and Accuracy in NIC Databases August 1992

    5) Explain how to have the information changed or updated.
    6) Explain how to get information removed from the database,
       including any references to one's information in another's
       database entry.
    7) Explain the consequences of removing information from the
       database and of failing to provide all or part of the
       information a NIC requests.
 The privacy policy enables people to make informed decisions
 regarding which information to supply for a given NIC database.  Any
 information supplied should treated in a manner consistent with the
 current privacy policy.  If a NIC makes a database available in its
 entirety to another organization, the NIC should also provide that
 organization with a copy of the current privacy policy for the

4. NIC Database Accuracy

 The value of any NIC database is dependent on the accuracy and
 timeliness of its contents.  Any database not being maintained well
 can create major difficulties for those using it and for those people
 and organizations listed.
 For each publically accessible database that a NIC operates, the NIC
 should have a clear statement that describes the process that the NIC
 uses to maintain accuracy in the database.  This statement could be
 combined with the privacy statement described above for sake of
 administrative convenience.
 The accuracy statement informs potential participants in the database
 of the precautions taken by the NIC to ensure accurate information.
 Any information supplied should be treated in a manner consistent
 with the current accuracy policy.  If a NIC makes a database
 available in its entirety to another organization, the NIC should
 also provide that organization with a copy of the current accuracy
 policy for the database.
 The accuracy statement should:
    1) Allow an individual or organization access to its own
       database entry, including private fields, for the purpose
       of correcting errors.
    2) Allow an individual or organization to correct any errors
       that occur in its database entry.

Curran & Marine [Page 3] RFC 1355 Privacy and Accuracy in NIC Databases August 1992

    3) Inform an individual or organization when information about
       them appears in an entry belonging to another party, so
       that the individual or organization can review that
       information and have the opportunity to submit corrections.
    4) Change information in an entry only at the request of or
       with the approval of the individual or organization
       about which the entry applies.
    5) Encourage an individual or organization to report any errors
       that occur in the database entries of others.
    6) Provide for a "date of last review" for each entry in the
       database; this would reflect the date that the entry was
       last checked by the owner for accuracy.
    7) Describe any and all practices used by the NIC to confirm
       data prior to inclusion in the database.
    8) State the data backup procedures in use for this database.

5. Security Considerations

 This memo briefly considers the security aspects of information in
 NIC databases.  This memo should revisited as security infrastructure
 becomes more developed in the Internet.

6. Authors' Addresses

 John Curran
 NSF Network Service Center (NNSC)
 10 Moulton Street
 Cambridge, MA 02138
 Phone: (617) 873-3400
 April N. Marine
 SRI International
 Network Information Systems Center
 333 Ravenswood Avenue, EJ294
 Menlo Park, CA  94025-3493
 Phone: (415) 859-5318

Curran & Marine [Page 4]

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