Crossing the Chasm In Mobile Identity: OpenID Foundation’s Mobile Profile Working Group


Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) worldwide are in various stages of “crossing the chasm” in the Internet identity markets. As Geoffrey A. Moore noted in his seminal work, the most difficult step is making the transition between early adopters and pragmatists. The chasm crossing Moore refers to points to the bandwagon effect and the role standards play as market momentum builds.

MNOs are pragmatists. As they investigate becoming identity providers, open standards play a critical role in how they can best leverage their unique technical capabilities and interoperate with partners. The OpenID Foundation’s Mobile Profile Working Group aims to create a profile of OpenID Connect tailored to the specific needs of mobile networks and devices thus enabling usage of operator ID services in an interoperable way.

The Working Group starts with the challenge that OpenID Connect relies on the e-mail address to determine a user’s OpenID provider (OP). In the context of mobile identity, the mobile phone number or other suitable mobile network data are considered more appropriate. The working group will propose extensions to the OpenID discovery function to use this data to determine the operator’s OP, while taking care to protect data privacy, especially the mobile phone number. We are fortunate the working group is led by an expert in ‘crossing the chasm’ of email and phone number interoperability, Torsten Lodderstedt, Head of Development of Customer Platforms at Deutsche Telekom who is also an OpenID Foundation Board member.

The Working Group’s scope is global as geographic regions are typically served by multiple, independent mobile network operators including virtual network operators. The number of potential mobile OPs a particular relying party needs to setup a trust relationship with will likely be very high. The working group will propose an appropriate and efficient model for trust and client credential management based on existing OpenID Connect specifications. The Foundation is collaborating with the Open Identity Exchange to build a trust platform that combines the “rules and tools” necessary to ensure privacy, operational, and security requirements of all stakeholders.

Stakeholders, like service providers, may likely have different requirements regarding authentication transactions. The OpenID Connect profile will also define a set of authentication policies operator OP’s are recommended to implement and service providers can choose from.

This working group has been setup in cooperation with OpenID Foundation member, the GSMA, to coordinate with the GSMA’s mobile connect project. We are fortunate that David Pollington, Senior Director of Technology at GSMA, and his colleagues have been key contributors to the Working Group’s charter and will ensure close collaboration with GSMA members. There is an importance coincidence of the GSMA and OIX joint leadership of mobile identity pilots with leading MNOs in the US and UK. All intermediary working group results will be proposed to this project and participating operators for adoption (e.g. in pilots) but can also be adopted by any other interested parties. The OIX and GSMA pilots in the US and UK can importantly inform the OIDF work group standards development process. That work on technical interoperability is complemented by work on “business interoperability.” OIX will publish a white paper tomorrow, “The ARPU of Identity”, that speaks to the business challenges MNOs face leveraging the highly relevant and unique assets in Internet identity.

The OpenID Foundation Mobile Profile Working Group’s profile builds on the worldwide adoption of OpenID Connect. The GSMA and OIX pilots offer an International test bed for both business and technical interoperability based on open standards. Taking together with the ongoing OIX White Papers and Workshops on the “Economics of Identity”, “chasm crossing” is within sight of the most pragmatic stakeholders.

Don

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