The Open Identity Exchange was launched this morning at the RSA conference in San Francisco. It is a significant step for federated identity as it will enable US government web sites such as the NIH to embrace open identity standards and roll out open identity services to US citizens. For example, the National Institute of Health can now move out of pilot phase and support accredited OpenID providers.
So, what is the Open Identity Exchange (OIX)? The OIX aims at enabling specialized trust frameworks or certification programs within a vertical community (e.g. US government, health care, financial services). Certification requirements for shared identity can be diverse and complex depending on the level of assurance required. Simply said, when it comes to trust, one size does not fit all.
You can think of a trust framework as the policy sibling of technical standards for identity. Identity policies must be set to deal with privacy, security, and liability. Once policies have been defined, certification can emerge as the foundation for trust between all parties exchanging information. However, the type of policy needed greatly depends on the sensitivity of this information, the security risks, and many other factors, including geo-political sensitivities. Indeed, the level of trust assurance required to protect access to the energy grid, electronic health care records or social web pages is clearly not the same.
The open approach that the OIX take is attractive. The OIX does not try to set the policy rules. Instead, it creates a common framework, a shared approach that will enable different communities to create their own certification rules. It is not an easy problem. But because cyber security and key governmental initiatives depend on high assurance identity management, OIX is an important first step to get there.