Network Working Group J. Curran
Request for Comments: 1355 NNSC
FYI: 15 A. Marine
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
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
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,
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
1) Describe why the NIC needs the information and how it will use
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.
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
7) Explain the consequences of removing information from the
database and of failing to provide all or part of the
information a NIC requests.
regarding which information to supply for a given NIC database. Any
information supplied should treated in a manner consistent with the
entirety to another organization, the NIC should also provide that
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
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.
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
NSF Network Service Center (NNSC)
10 Moulton Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: (617) 873-3400
April N. Marine
Network Information Systems Center
333 Ravenswood Avenue, EJ294
Menlo Park, CA 94025-3493
Phone: (415) 859-5318