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SPECIAL UPDATE: Appropriate Access to Geospacial Data

(Posted 5-28-04)


This update is an on-line only web update.

IN A NUTSHELL: The guidelines proposed by the Homeland Security Working Group of the Federal Geographic Data Committee will provide procedures to identify sensitive information content of geospatial data sets. Should such content be identified, the guidelines will help organizations decide what access to provide to such data and still protect sensitive information content. The geospatial data community's use of a common, standardized approach to identify data sets that have sensitive content and to restrict such information will increase the effectiveness of individual organization's actions.

The proposed guidelines are available online at http://www.fgdc.gov/fgdc/homeland/FGDC_access_guidelines.pdf along with instructions on how to provide comments by Wednesday, June 2, 2004.

Background

Geospatial data play a vital role in the United States. It underpins one-half of the Nation’s domestic economic activities, aids our international competitiveness, supports a large array of Federal, state, and local government activities, and serves the general public. Many public, private, and non-profit organizations originate and publicly distribute geospatial data sets. While the vast majority of these data are appropriate for public dissemination, a small portion of these data could pose a risk to security and may require additional safeguarding. Although there is not much publicly-available geospatial information that is sensitive, federal, state, and local levels have restricted access to information based on differing criteria to identify sensitive data. Some organizations curtailed access without assessing the risk to security, the significance of consequences associated with improper use of the data, or the public benefits for which the data were originally made available.

Guidelines for identifying sensitive data, determining risks associated with them, and assessing their benefits help the geospatial data community in several ways. Use of guidelines can frame discussions about the importance of making data publicly accessible and encourage the development of consensus decisions in the community. Because contradictory decisions and actions by different organizations can easily negate each organization’s action, a common, standardized approach to identify data sets that have sensitive content and to appropriately safeguard such information will increase the effectiveness of an individual organization’s actions and not unduly restrict public access.

The guidelines developed by the Homeland Security Working Group of the Federal Geographic Data Committee help organizations decide on reasonable access to sensitive data and avoid unnecessary restrictions. They do so by helping organizations identify content that might pose a risk to security. They then guide organizations to take appropriate actions by evaluating the sensitive content in the context of other available information, the benefits lost by restricting data access, and the options for restricting data.

The proposed guidelines are available online at http://www.fgdc.gov/fgdc/homeland/FGDC_access_guidelines.pdf along with instructions on how to provide comments. The working group will use the comments to improve the guidelines and to plan ways to encourage their adoption. It will summarize major or recurring themes from the comments and the working group's responses, and post the information through the working group's home page at
http://www.fgdc.gov/fgdc/homeland/index.html.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee will issue the guidelines under the authority provided by U.S. Office of Management and Budget Circular A-16 to establish procedures necessary and sufficient to carry out interagency coordination and the implementation of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The U.S. Geological survey, which houses the committee's secretariat, provided this notice on behalf of the committee.

Take Action - Provide Comments

All comments concerning these proposed guidelines should be submitted by electronic mail to guidelines@fgdc.gov or by postal mail to FGDC HSWG Guidelines Review, 511 National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192.

For further information contact: Michael Domaratz, Co-chair, Federal Geographic Data Committee Homeland Security Working Group, (703) 648-4434.

All comments must be received by Wednesday, June 2, 2004.

Special update prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, Government Affairs Program

Sources: Federal Register, Homeland Security Working Group of the Federal Geographic Data Committee, US Geological Survey

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted 5/28/2004

 

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