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FGDC Newsletter Summer 1998

FGDC Privacy Policy is Endorsed

Policy Balances Data Access and Privacy Issues
In April, the FGDC Steering Committee endorsed the FGDC Policy on Access to Public Information and the Protection of Personal Information Privacy in Federal Geospatial Databases. The policy is needed because of growing concerns about privacy issues related to geographic information systems.

Federal geospatial databases are being built with increasing levels of geographic specificity and often include personal information that must be protected. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with protecting endangered species and the habitats upon which they depend, the bulk of which occur on private property,"explained Owen Amber, Systems Analyst with the Division of Information Resources of the Service. "In order to carry out our mission, the Service must work in close partnership with many organizations and individuals, especially with private land owners. To do so effectively, we must be able to assure them that their privacy rights will not be violated. Trust is of the essence."

The privacy policy balances privacy protection and data access issues. It articulates the FGDC's endorsement of public access to information and appropriate protections for the privacy and confidentiality of personal information in federal geospatial databases. The policy's key provisions are that: federal agencies should improve public access to geospatial data while minimizing costs to taxpayers, individuals should be informed of the purposes for data collection beforehand, and agencies should take steps to protect the privacy of individuals and limit the amount of personal information used in geospatial databases.

The policy synthesizes information access and privacy principles from many different areas. It is based on law- principally the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), related federal policies (such Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130, "Management of Federal Information Resources"), and well- regarded fair information and privacy practices and principles (particularly the work of the Privacy Working Group of the U.S. Information Infrastructure Task Force). The policy echoes and reinforces federal agency directions on privacy and data access. For example, "The Department of Energy has always - for obvious reasons - been inherently security conscious," noted David Morehouse, a Senior Petroleum Geologist with the Department of Energy. "It is therefore not surprising that the new FGDC privacy policy embodies and mirrors DOE's existing principles and practices on personal privacy."

One of the policy's guiding rationales is that broad-based, consistent principles of privacy protection must be built into databases and systems from the beginning. Building in protection when systems are designed ensures smoother implementation and operation of the process later on.

The FGDC is an interagency committee composed of 16 Cabinet-level and independent federal agencies, and includes participation by the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the International City/County Management Association, state geographic information coordination councils, and the National States Geographic Information Council. For the policy to be relevant to all agencies, it must be articulated at a general level. Therefore, rather than providing specific directives, the policy provides guidance for federal agencies as they develop their own policies and procedures. It is hoped that other organizations in the geospatial data community will also find the policy useful.

Federal agencies are already beginning to implement the policy. For example, the Natural Resource Conservation Service is cooperating with the National Arbor Day Foundation to sponsor a Workshop on Privacy in Natural Resource Data Collection and Use. The workshop will clarify privacy issues in the natural resources context and identify potential solutions. It will be held in Nebraska City, NE, November 18-19, 1998.

Many individuals contributed to the development of this policy. Kathy Covert, the FGDC staff member who led the effort, said, "I would like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the FGDC Coordination Group and the Steering Committee for their leadership on this important public policy issue. I'd especially like to recognize two individuals who, although not members of the FGDC committees, devoted time and attention 'beyond the call of duty' to assist in the policy development: Marilyn Legnini, the FOIA and Privacy Act Officer for the Bureau of Land Management, and Maya Bernstein, Policy Analyst with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB." The full text of the policy is available by mail from the FGDC and on the FGDC web site.

For background information, see the following sources:
Privacy and the National Information Infrastructure: Principles for Providing and Using Personal Information, Final Version, June 6, 1995.
Privacy Working Group, Information Policy Committee, Information Infrastructure Task Force
Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act

Framework Data Survey Wraps Up

More Than 4500 Surveys Returned
The Framework Data Survey, conducted by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), is moving into the data analysis phase. More than 4500 responses have been received to date in one of the most comprehensive geographic data survey and analysis projects ever conducted. The survey concentrates on framework data themes produced by state and local governments. Framework data themes include geodetic control, elevation and bathymetry, orthoimagery, transportation, hydrography, political boundaries, and cadastral information. Counties, in particular, have been targeted, although respondents include other local governments, regional groups, state agencies, federal agencies, nonprofit groups, and the private sector. "It is very exciting that we have all 50 states and the Inter-tribal GIS Council committed to participate," remarked Hank Garie, NSGIC survey project director and director of the GIS Program for the State of New Jersey. The survey is unique not only for its breadth, but also for its quality control procedures, the types of analyses and interpretation that will be published, the availability of the results in a variety of formats, and the widespread participation and effort on the part of the spatial data community.

Data analysis has already begun. Several states have completed their survey activities, and the data are now being examined by a team from NSGIC, FGDC, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The team is conducting a thorough quality assurance procedure to ensure reliable data that can be used in many different types of analyses. After routine data analyses have been conducted, issues related to framework data production, use, and availability will be examined, and conditions that foster framework data development will be explored.

The survey results will be a valuable resource to all sectors of the spatial data community, providing information about what framework data exist, who is producing them, how they are being disseminated, and how organizations are working together to build the framework. The survey analysis will test some of the existing hypotheses about framework data production and use, support (or refute) anecdote-based assertions, and provide insight for further development and sharing of framework data.

The results of the survey and of the data analysis and interpretation will be published in late 1998 and mid-1999. The first publication, a preview report that will appear as a special supplement to the November issue of Geo Info Systems, will cover the preliminary results from the early states' data and discuss the directions the full data analysis is taking. The National Technical Report, scheduled for release next summer, will examine results from all 50 states. The survey data will be made available digitally for everyone examine and analyze. More information about the data availability will be provided on the NSGIC and FGDC web pages.

The Framework Data Survey is a "good example of organizations working together toward a common goal to push the NSDI forward."

The survey has been a cooperative effort among NSGIC team members, state survey coordinators, GIS project representatives across the country, and FGDC and USGS staff. The survey is a "good example of organizations working together toward a common goal to push the NSDI forward," Garie pointed out. It is a communal effort in which the individual participants can "see that their piece will benefit a broader whole."

If you have received a survey but have not yet returned it to NSGIC, please do so as soon as possible. You don't want to miss the opportunity to have your results included.

Hopi Tribe Presents LIS Briefing

The manager of the Hopi Tribe Land Information System (LIS) presented a briefing at the Department of the Interior's Geographic Data Committee Meeting in April. Phillip Tuwaletstiwa and Kyle Bohnenestiehl of the Hopi Tribe and Keith Kirk of the Office of Surface Mining presented the philosophy and technical aspects of the system. The Hopi Tribe's LIS

"We believe we are stewards of the earth. If you cannot see it, you cannot manage it."

provides a system to visualize the Hopi Indian Reservation's cultural and natural resources. The system combines a commitment to responsible stewardship of the land with the technology to manage it. "We believe we are stewards of the earth. If you cannot see it, you cannot manage it," explained Tuwaletstiwa.

Following the National Spatial Data Infrastructure standards "makes good sense."

The objective of the LIS is to map Hopi cultural and natural resources and portray the information for the benefit of the Hopi People, the tribal government, and others outside the reservation. The system developers wanted to educate the Hopi People about their reservation, share certain geospatial information with others, help other tribes with their LIS technology, and follow the National Spatial Data standards because "it makes good sense." The tribe uses the LIS to map its villages, portray reservation boundaries, document cultural resources, and support the Little Colorado River water rights litigation, Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act enforcement, and range management. The Hopi are also extending their geodetic control network, developing their own large-scale DOQ's based on 1997 flight data, and developing more than 100 GIS base layers. For more information about this project, call Phillip J. Tuwaletstiwa at 520-734-3613.

New York State Clearinghouse Wins Award

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) has recognized the New York State GIS Clearinghouse with a 1998 Exemplary Systems in Government award in the NSDI/Data Partnerships category. The award will be presented at the opening session of URISA's annual conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, on July 20. The New York State GIS Clearinghouse was established in 1996 and is administered by the New York State GIS Coordinating Body under the direction of the New York State Office for Technology. The Clearinghouse was envisioned as a central, easily accessible, organized, and searchable list of GIS data sets, and it has developed into a focal point for the state GIS Data Sharing Cooperative and a cornerstone of the NYS GIS Coordination Program. The Clearinghouse's highly effective method uses straightforward Internet applications to establish an electronic data- sharing mechanism.

The New York State Clearinghouse site is "low cost, low tech, low flash, but high on service and accessibility."

The Clearinghouse's major features include an inventory of GIS data sets, electronic access to agency GIS data sets, a GIS metadata repository, electronic forms for updating the Clearinghouse data, listservers for disbursing information, interactive electronic mail, and a gateway from the National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse to regional clearinghouses within New York State. The Clearinghouse also serves as a "one-stop" location for information on the statewide GIS program, the New York State GIS Data Sharing Co-operative, GIS activities around New York State, education and training opportunities, GIS tools, and helpful hints for GIS users and professionals. Bruce Oswald, chair of the New York GIS Coordinating Body, described the site as "low cost, low tech, low flash, but high on service and high on accessibility." The New York State Library hosts the Clearinghouse web site at

State Department Presents Digital Map Expo

The State Department hosted its first Digital Map Expo on March 24. It featured displays from 10 federal agencies and 24 vendors demonstrating the latest in satellite-based remote sensing imagery, digital mapping and imagery technology, and GIS software. The theme of the exposition was how these revolutionary tools can help diplomats meet the international challenges of the next century. The event drew over 200 guests. Under Secretary for Management, Bonnie Cohen stressed her interest in working with other Federal agencies and the private sector in exploring the use of more abundant and affordable imagery data and GIS tools as part of a modernized information system that can support our international affairs and strategic goals.

News about NSDI Initiatives


OGRIP Joins Partnership Program
The Ohio Geographically Referenced Information Program Council (OGRIP) has become the 25th member of the FGDC's Cooperating Groups Partnership Program. The program recognizes statewide or regional councils or committees committed to improving geographic data coordination. This network of FGDC-recognized councils is an important link in the web of organizations working together to build the NSDI "from the ground up." OGRIP was established by Executive Order of the Governor of Ohio in 1993 to provide for the efficient collection, management, and use of digital geographically referenced data. It encourages the creation of digital geographic data that are valuable to multiple users, and fosters the ability to easily determine what geographic data exist and the ability to easily access and use these data. OGRIP is composed of a council and forum. Ronald Vidmar is its chair and Stuart Davis is the executive director. Further information about OGRIP and the other members of the Partnership Program can be found on the FGDC web site under cooperative partnerships.

The International City/County Management Association Recognized as NSDI Stakeholder
At its June meeting, the FGDC Steering Committee recognized the The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) as a stakeholder group in developing the NSDI. Founded in 1914, the International City/County Management Association is the professional and educational organization of more than 8,200 appointed administrators and assistant administrators serving cities, counties, other local governments, and regional entities around the world.

The purposes of ICMA are to enhance the quality of local government through professional management and to support and assist professional local government administration. To that end, the association provides technical assistance, training, management assistance, and publications to help local government professionals improve their skills and increase their knowledge. ICMA also serves as a clearinghouse for the collection, analysis and dissemination of information and data about local government. For more information see the ICMA web site at


Geospatial Positioning Accuracy Standards Released
The Geospatial Positioning Accuracy Standards were endorsed by the FGDC in June. This is the first FGDC standards project to integrate standards for various data themes and applications. The Standards support the NSDI Framework by providing procedures and guidelines that enable integration, sharing, and use of data. The Standards consist of three parts: Reporting Methodology, Standards for Geodetic Networks, and the National Standard for Spatial Data Accuracy. The document is available at the following web site: More information about the standards can also be obtained from Julie Binder Maitra at Printed copies are available from ESIC, P.O. Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225.


Metadata Version 2.0 Released
The Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) Version 2.0 (FGDC-STD-001-1998) has been endorsed by the FGDC. The new version provides for the creation of metadata profiles, user-defined metadata extensions, metadata tags, and modifications to some metadata production rules. The CSDGM Version 2.0 supersedes Version 1, which was endorsed on June 8, 1994. Electronic copies of Version 2.0 can be obtained from the FGDC web site ( Printed copies are available from the Earth Science Information Center (ESIC), P.O. Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225.

The FGDC has received permission from the American National Standards Institute National Committee for Information Technology Standards L1 Committee to perform an open review within the United States of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Metadata Standard Committee Draft. You can help the FGDC establish a position on the ISO Metadata Standard by registering with the FGDC to receive a copy of the draft to review and provide comments on. You are also invited to register to participate in the comment adjudication. The review began mid-July and is scheduled to be completed by mid-September.


Operational and Business Practices Workshop
More than 30 representatives from a variety of GIS projects across the country explored framework, organizational and businesses practices at a workshop in Annapolis in January. Participants completed a preworkshop survey that asked them for examples of business cases, a description of how each program is organized to perform framework functions, experiences and expertise they could share with their peers, issues they would like the workshop to address, and documents on their programs. The workshop discussion focused on motivating groups to participate in framework activities, organizational practices, and framework resources. The workshop report is available from the FGDC. The responses to the preworkshop surveys are included in the report and are also available on the FGDC web site at

Framework Road Data Model
Representatives from a variety of road framework projects met at a Road Data Model Workshop in December 1997. They compared their approaches and found them similar. Participants identified and discussed the elements of a road data model that would support framework activities. They agreed that the data model should be simple and provide the following functions: support multiple, current linear referencing systems, including street addresses; aid data maintenance and use; identify the geographic features being represented; and provide a means for users to attach applications data to framework data. The participants also identified a need for practical advice on implementing a model both in the field and in a GIS, and for a permanent identifier assignment method that is responsive to organizations' responsibilities and data flows. The workshop report is available from the FGDC framework web site. Following this workshop, a proposal to develop a draft NSDI Framework Road Data Model Standard was produced. The objective is to provide a logical data model for identifying unique road segments that are independent of cartographic or analytic network representation. These road segments will form the basis for sharing and transactionally updating the NSDI framework road data-bases.

The model is being processed under the classification of a data content standard; however, it also includes standards for assigning and reporting identification codes and voluntary guidelines for data collection. Any road databases submitted for inclusion in the NSDI transportation framework layer would conform to this standard.

The technical review team will look at the model in August and release a draft for general review and comment in the fall. While that review is occurring, the team will develop a prototype implementation. In the fall, the review comments and prototype results will be incorporated into the draft standard, which is scheduled to be released for formal review in January 1999. For more information, contact Bruce Spear at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 202-366-8870 or


Through the FGDC Clearinghouse Gateway, there are now over 80 searchable metadata service nodes registered with the FGDC. These sites enable simultaneous search of spatial data holdings in the United States and several other countries. Approximately one-third of these nodes are U.S. Federal governmental organizations, one-third are state- sponsored sites, and the remainder are regional, local, and international partici-pating sites that use the same search protocol based on Z39.50.

Clearinghouse: What's in a Word?
The term "clearinghouse" is being used more and more in computer-based domains, and is being applied to many activities, including lists of data, web sites, and projects. Unfortunately, this broadening of the definition has resulted in some confusion about the NSDI Clearinghouse, making it difficult for prospective implementers and users to know what type of services to expect. The critical element of the NSDI Clearinghouse activity is the focus on distributed search of many locally held and managed spatial data and metadata collections, achieved through the use of common standards and accessible software solutions.

To address these terminology problems, the Clearinghouse Working Group will be exploring the development of an alternative name for the Clearinghouse. A more focused term, such as "Distributed Spatial Catalog" or "Global Search Capability," might help users and providers recognize the specific value and capabilities of the search component of the Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse activity will continue by name, but a clearer definition of its parts and expectations will be developed in the coming months.

Clearinghouse Implementers Workshop Planned for NSGIC
The one-day workshop to address Clearinghouse history, status, and technical directions for existing and prospective Clearinghouse implementers will be held in Annapolis, Maryland, September 11, 1998 immediately prior to the National States Geographic Council (NSGIC) meeting. A summary of the workshop topics will also be presented during a round-table session later during the NSGIC Conference. The workshop is free and open to all interested parties on a space-available basis. To register please contact Jennifer Fox of the FGDC Secretariat by email ( or phone 703-648-5514.

FGDC now member of World-Wide Web Consortium The World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a not-for-profit organization established two years ago to foster coordination and endorsement of specific Web technologies by all interested organizations. It is through efforts of the W3C that we have informal standards such as HTML that are adopted and implemented as common, rather than competing, standards. New Internet technologies are being designed, prototyped, and deployed within the W3C but are closed to general public participation. Through membership, the FGDC will act as a bridge between its member agencies and the W3C to assure that its standards and technologies are compatible. FGDC members interested in participating in the W3C activities on behalf of the FGDC should contact Doug Nebert ( for more information.

Clearinghouse and the OpenGIS Consortium The FGDC Secretariat through Doug Nebert as Clearinghouse Coordinator, is leading a team of vendors and implementors in preparing a response to the OpenGIS Consortium (OGC) Catalog Services Specification Request For Proposals. FGDC is taking a coordination role in this activity to encourage development of OGC solutions that support Clearinghouse and are compatible with the meanings and structures of the FGDC and draft ISO metadata content standards. Through OGC standardization of catalog services, we anticipate increased vendor support and implementation of these essential NSDI concepts. Initial RFP responses from proposing teams will be forwarded to the OGC for consideration in November, 1998, with anticipated passage in early 1999 as a formal OGC implementation specification.

Upcoming Conferences

(NSDI - session, MD - metadata)
September 9-11         Americas Town Meeting                   Washington, DC
September 12-17        NSGIC Annual Meeting                    Annapolis, MD            NSDI
September 23-24        '98 New York State GIS Conference       Rochester, NY            NSDI
September 24-25        9th Annual VA GIS Conference            Richmond, VA             NSDI
September 28-Oct 1     The Meta-Data Conference                Chicago, IL              MD
November 6-15          GIS/LIS 98                              Ft. Worth, TX            NSDI
November 15-19         American Water Resources                Point Clear, AL          NSDI
February 10-12         North Carolina GIS Conference           Winston-Salem, NC
February 17-19         5th Annual California GIS Conference    Oakland, CA
March 13-18            ACSM 1999 Conference                    Portland, OR             NSDI
April 25-28            GITA Conference (AM/FM)                 Charlotte, NC            NSDI
May 17-21              ASPRS 1999 Conference                   Portland, OR             NSDI 
October 7-9            Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium            St. Cloud, MN
Last Updated: Jan 17, 2006 12:45 PM
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