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Privacy and Accuracy Issues in Network Information Center Databases :: RFC1355

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

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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.

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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.

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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
   EMail: jcurran@nnsc.nsf.net

   April N. Marine
   SRI International
   Network Information Systems Center
   333 Ravenswood Avenue, EJ294
   Menlo Park, CA  94025-3493

   Phone: (415) 859-5318
   EMail: april@nisc.sri.com

Curran & Marine                                                 [Page 4]