Blogger: Bob Blakley
9/9/9 was a day of announcements. You’ve already undoubtedly heard about the 64GB iPod touch, and if you’ve also heard about the new Leica M9 you know what to get me for Christmas this year.
But the identity world had its own big news today; the news is that the US Government has teamed up with the OpenID Foundation, the Information Card Foundation, the Kantara Initiative, and InCommon in creating the Open Identity Initiative.
This is a really big deal, for two reasons.
First, as a condition of playing with the government in this game, OIDF and ICF have had to address the longest-standing and most serious defect in the open identity ecosystem: the lack of a trust infrastructure. “What’s a trust infrastructure”, I hear you cry...
When you receive an X.509 certificate from a PKI provider, you can go to the provider’s site and read its Certification Practice Statement. This statement provides three critical pieces of information:
- What the provider does to ensure that the person who sent you the certificate is who he says he is.
- What the provider does to ensure that its own systems aren’t compromised in a way that would allow people to create fraudulent certificates or steal private keys.
- What obligations the provider undertakes and what remedies it will provide to its customers (i.e. YOU) if it breaches those obligations.
There’s never been any equivalent of a Certification Practice Statement for open identity providers. Today’s announcement changes that. The Open Identity Initiative has created a Trust Framework Provider Adoption Process which will allow organizations to set themselves up as roots of trust for open identity. Organizations which serve as trust roots will assess the practices and guarantees of identity providers, and they will establish registries of providers and “score” them against a set of identity assurance criteria aligned with the Liberty Alliance Identity Assurance Framework and the OMB M-04-04 and NIST SP 800-63 guidelines.
So, if a few serious organizations sign up to become Trust Framework Providers, we’ll finally have a trust infrastructure for open identity.
The second reason today’s announcement is a really big deal is that, after years of government attempts to create identities and assign them to citizens (via such bad ideas as the UK National ID scheme and the US REAL-ID act), a government has finally recognized that individuals already HAVE identities, and that it’s a better idea, for most purposes, to use these identities than to establish a new government bureaucracy to create new identities – especially if they’re identities people don’t want.
If this initiative succeeds, and I hope it does, it’s almost certain to be a much cheaper route to government consumption of reliable digital identities of citizens than something like REAL-ID would be. And it will preserve consumer choice at the same time as encouraging innovation in commercial identity technology.
So three cheers for Vivek Kundra and the boards of the OpenID Foundation, the Information Card Foundation, the Kantara Initiative, and InCommon. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget to congratulate OSIS and the Internet Identity Workshop, where many of the technologies behind today’s announcement were developed and more of the ideas were born, and the Liberty Alliance, whose work on the Identity Assurance Framework is the keystone of the trust infrastructure we are finally about to see.