R-cards “ah-hah!” at IIW

At last month’s Internet Identity Workshop and the subsequent DataSharing Summit, Markus S and Drummond Reed unpacked several ideas about r-cards, which, to a certain extent, are an evolution of the Information Card at the heart of CardSpace.

Going into IIW, I understood r-cards simply as a hybrid of InfoCard’s managed and personal card models. Managed cards are issued by another party–all the data associated/transmitted with that card is controlled by that managing party, while personal cards are self-asserted, allowing individuals to serve as their own card provider, controlling all of the associated data. R-cards then, allow a managing party to co-control a card with the user–with some data controlled by the managing party and some controlled by the user.

However, during the IIW demo of r-card, I had an epiphany about how powerful the r-card is, once we actually allow the user to manage the personal claims through multiple, dereferenceable links.

One issue that came up during the demo was that if the “personal” side of the r-card is manually entered claims, such as contact information, then the user is creating a management nightmare: duplicate claims would need to be entered and maintained across many different r-cards. The more r-cards, the worse the problem.

The “obvious” solution discussed at the session was to allow the user to specify specific claims that are served by other IdPs, such as a Personal Address Manager. And for completeness sake, let’s note that such claims could be mashed up from multiple other IdPs, not just a single one. Thus, any number of claims from a particular IdP could act as a sort of sub-card, combining with other subcards at presentation time.

The net result of this is a realization that that perhaps the most interesting thing about r-cards is their use as dynamic cards or aggregate cards or mashup identity cards.

That’s pretty cool in itself.

However, it also struck me that this also potentially fixes usability problems around authorizing a bunch of vendor’s (M) access to identity claims at a variety of different identity providers (N). This potentially requires N points of authorization and authentication for each M vendors (or relying parties). Sub-cards (or r-cards) may combine that task at the point of presentation for much greater user understanding and simplicity.

Since the Card Selector is itself a trusted point of authorization, we should be able to use the “mashup” gesture as explicit authorization for relying parties to access the claims specified in the sub-cards. That is, the UI of creating the r-card/mashup card/dynamic card also explicitly approves access to specific claims from multiple IdPs, since after all, the selector is where you select which claims to present to relying parties.

This adjustment to the Information Card ceremony greatly simplifies the user experience, while retaining all the power of distributed claims at appropriate IdPs. For example, it would allow me to specify my Passport # to United Airlines, as a verifiable claim served by the US Secretary of State IdP (which should be trusted by UA), streamlining any international travel I might do, while retaining my contact info at my Personal Address Manager. All with the same authorization ceremony I use with any information card relying party.

This realization was, for me, the most surprising insight into the power of the r-card. In fact, I’m wondering if the name “r-card” captures it best.

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2 Responses to R-cards “ah-hah!” at IIW

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