OpenID provider wish-list

A week or so ago, Nic Ferrier of prooveme contacted me about a previous post I made that referenced prooveme.com in regards to strong authentication. He ended the email,

We’d like to be your provider of choice - so do tell us what you want to see.

I had been meaning to post a reply to this for several days, but now with Martin Atkins’s Relying Party Best Practices, it seems like an ideal time to discuss this. Here is a short list of items I came up with that I’d like to see in an OpenID provider, roughly in priority order. A number of them are already addressed by one or more existing providers, while several are not.

  • SSL – not having SSL is an immediate deal breaker. If my password or my personal information is going over the wire, it sure as hell better be over an encrypted connection.

  • Strong Authentication – this was the primary topic of the aforementioned post, and more details can be found there. The main point, however, is that I’d like some kind of stronger authentication mechanism than just a single username and password. As more OpenID enabled services come online, the more important it will become to have a stronger mechanism to identify the user. This might be in the form of an client SSL certificate like prooveme and certifi.ca use, or a one-time-use password like iamdentity.

  • Auditing – It looks like a number of providers allow you to see and modify the list of all the relying parties you trust, and while that’s a good start, this could (and for some use cases, should) be expanded much beyond that. I’d like to see a log of every time I authenticated to a particular relying party, and perhaps some additional information about that transaction such as IP address. This could potentially help identify if and when my account has been compromised. When attributes are released via simple-reg I want to see that, and it might also be useful to know exactly what values were released during a given transaction. I may have updated an attribute a number of times since it was released to that relying party months ago, and I might like to know what values were sent to them.

  • Real attribute release policies – Perhaps I’m just spoiled from working on Shibboleth for several years, but I would really like fine grained control over what attributes are delivered to a given relying party. MyOpenID’s “persona” feature definitely comes pretty close on this, but I believe it is still an “all or nothing” choice – I can’t approve the release of only a subset of the attributes an RP requested.

  • Modify attribute value for the current transaction – This somewhat carries over from the previous item. MyOpenID has the ability to edit your persona just before you send it to the relying party (although this is a bit broken, because it completely breaks the OpenID flow if you do so). In addition to making permanent modifications to a persona, I’d like to be able to modify the values that are released for the given transaction only. For example, I may want to use my main persona for this relying party, but just change my email address to something different.

  • Identity Linking – This is certainly in the running for being the latest “holy grail” of OpenID… the ability to link multiple OpenIDs in such a way that relying parties understand that they are equivalent. I’m not even sure if the provider is the right party to address this problem (I imagine it will require work on both sides) but if someone is able to come up with a compelling solution, that would be very attractive.

So there’s a few things I was able to think of in a short amount of time, but I’m sure I overlooked a bunch. I’m curious to know what kind of features others would like to see in an OpenID provider. Don’t limit yourself just to what you think is realistic or easy to implement in the short term… think bigger than that, this is a wish-list after all.

Comments and responses

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Excellent list. I’m not sure I understand what you mean by the Identity Linking item, though. Doesn’t the decision to regard multiple IDs as equivalent short out the need for those IDs? I’m talking conceptually here, not just in OpenID. If the user regards the IDs as equivalent, then it is superfluous to ask the implementation to understand them as equivalent, too. The user can act as any of them, with the same outcome. Human third parties would have something to gain by perceiving the equivalence, but again this is not something that the identity service needs to (or could) understand as well.

[quote comment=“1425”]If the user regards the IDs as equivalent, then it is superfluous to ask the implementation to understand them as equivalent, too.[/quote]

The primary use case I’m thinking about is voluntary identity aggregation. There is certainly a case for an individual desiring to have multiple IDs and keep them separate, and that is easy enough to do today. However, what if I have multiple IDs (perhaps one for work and one for personal use) but I want people to know that they belong to the same person? There’s no good way to do that right now.

Interestingly, Martin Atkins also wrote about a similar topic today, as did Carsten Pötter last week.

[quote comment=“1426”]As for identity linking, Mark Wahl recently proposed to make the OP act as a proxy for multiple OpenID identities. Is that something you’d like your provider to do?[/quote]It sounds like Mark was talking a bit about attribute aggregation as well, unless I read it wrong. Proxying identities I might be okay with, but when it comes to attributes I get a bit more paranoid. I’m not sure I want my primary OP knowing what kind of attributes my bank or doctor’s office might be asserting about me.

Will,

An excellent list. I see you mentioned iamdentity here as well. I’m one of the main developers of the iamdentity solution. We want to create a centralised identity management solution where you can control all your online identities.

OpenID is part of this and we want to expand on this as well. At the moment we include:

  1. Strong Authentication - We have a one-time key sent to the user. We have just agreed a partnership deal with a key-token provider. Soon users will have the option to use a key-token as a strong authentication method as well.

  2. Attribute Release Properties - You control what is released to the website

  3. Identity Linking - You can link all your OpenIDs to your profile and manage it from there as well.

We are thinking of implementing the Audit Trail for OpenID as well (we have it for our normal iamdentity solution).

As we are creating a solution for the internet community, we work with the internet community. Let me know what you want to see in the iamdentity profile manager.