Notes from the “Government as Identity Oracle” session at IIW East

These are my raw notes put here for reference purposes.


  • Peter A
  • Mary R
  • Ian G
  • Gerry B
  • others

What is mean by identity oracle?

* An oracle provides an answer to a question but not a specific attribute

** If you ask an Oracle, is Peter over 21 it says yes. It does not hand back an attribute – birthdate

Peter: The Federal Govt is authoritative for very few attributes – State Dept – passport #, citizenship. State govt are authoritative for driver’s license number. SSA for SSN.

eVerfify is an example of an oracle, says Gerry.

Peter – what will drive this is the requirement for LOA3 credentials needed to access to medical records.

P – “We do not have an attribute infrastructure.” A lot of attributes are simply issued via IdP’

I – our examples so far have shown organizations that are authoritative for identifiers but not attributes

P – raises need for back end attribute exchange

Gerry – Problem with authoritative attribute provides is that the PDP makes a decision as to what is truly authoritative for a given context. Authoritative data source must provide SLA or MOU so that relying party can establish trust.

P – BAE is 1/2 of the equation and attribute provider (market?) is the other half

A – is there a business model for attribute providers?

G – have problems seeing attribute exchange at enterprise scale let alone government scale. Quality and availability are just some of the issues. Access decisions are fairly local and these decisions are not things that known often at the higher enterprise layer. Things are made authoritative by policy decision.

P – Second model for authoritative – a local decision to assign authoritative-ness to something

Nishant – should we get rid of the term authoritative?

Peter for sees multiple attribute providers having say over the same attribute for the same person

If I use an Oracle, do I have to know its sources? No, says Gerry, as you form an agreement with the Oracle ahead of time as to what happens when something goes wrong

P- I am running validation services which services 400 back-end apps. I am standing up a BAE to help. I could build that infrastructure or I could can contract out to an Oracle. The Oracle has to tell me its sources so I can make a decision to use it or not. Gerry comments that you may not want to know the Oracle’s source of data.

Returning to the eVerify system – is a person allowed to work? eVerify doesn’t disclose sources of info but DHS takes responsibility for its decisions.

Pam asks about redundancy of providers. Redundancy allows same decision to be made via separate paths.

Anil feels that there is a business case for multiple providers.

Mary raises the point that there are organizations who have a lot of data on people. These are often highly regulated organizations because they are related to financial services.

G – uses Health Vault and Google Health as an example of multiple providers of heath information data

A – Talked to financial roundtable – these ors not interested in B2C but very interested in B2B situations. Having the govt offering services to help vet people would be of great service.

Govt business for providing identity information? There are certainly companies that will aggregate public data for a fee. If a service provider helps get me as a business information I need to hire someone (citizenship for example), would I use it? Would I form a business to do this? N raises BT’s You Are You service as an example of this.

Pam – talking about building cloud-services in this area. Definitely interest from small business for federation and using Google as authoritative source. Sees consumer-focused needs later down the road.

I asks P about persisting “over 18” information if it is acquitted from Equifax. P says they’d have to issues SORN and protect as PII.

I am curious about about Govt as Oracle and the implications with respect to the Privacy Act. Peter wants to facilitate market for Oracles. NIH had MOU with InCommon which included use of attributes and information. This included agreed upon protections for those attributes which was coherent with InCommons users’ requirements. Peter acknowledges this doesn’t scale but he offers as a counterpoint that NIH is doing this federation to federation. He asserts there wont be that many to federate to.

I many not want to maintain a BAE with hundreds of connections to attribute providers. Likely outsource the work to an Oracle. “It is easier to affiliate with a hubs than it is affiliate with each provider,” says Peter A.

Peter says that NIH sees need to to handle attributes and thus NIH is setting up BAE. He acknowledges that there needs to be policy and practice around this, which Peter is on the hook to build. FICAM roadmap says that if you are standing up an attribute service it must be a BAE if you want funding.

G – If I am a BAE affiliate and I want to consume other affiliate’s data, what is the quality I can expect? Anil says that this is currently being discussed amongst architecture groups. G talked about the quality within his organization. There is no strong commitment to the data that internal data collectors collect. At the end of the day if something goes wrong, is it my fault or someone else’s. THis is part of the contractual relationship between data consumer and provider.

Hold Harmless clause within MOUs used the by the PKI Bridge. So long as org is acting in accordance with their own policies then they are to be held harmless. G – in certain situations this works, but in others it does not. I might have to run my own infrastructure or shop for another provider who can back up their assertions.

Pam asks if this is govt to govt discussion, would a private group come in an provide services for G2G? Anil says yes and that currently this is happening.

Because there are so many million of high level of assurance credentials, one would think that someone would want to build an ecommerce infrastructure to consume these creds – says Peter.

Peter asserts authentication is a solved problem and next up is authorization, claims, roles, etc.

Every application owner want to maintain control over who comes into the app. But this a way that Peter gets people to plug into the federated SSO environment.

Are people building services to consider risk-based authorization in transaction, asks Pam. Anil mentions the consideration of environmental attributes for initial authorization. G says this is a hot space now. Anil brings up how PayPal takes a low assurance cred and uses it for financial transactions.