OpenID and Information Cards at the NIH

Drummond Reed writes about real progress by the National Institute of Health in making their sites accessible through what the U.S. government has started to call Open Identities.   The decision by the NIH and the U.S. administration to leverage existing identity infrastructures is tremendously interesting – it turns the usual paradigm for government identity on its head.  Drummond, who is Executive Director of the Information Card Foundation, writes:

Bethesda, MD, USA – The first iTrust Forum, held today at the National Institute of Health (NIH) headquarters in Bethesda, MD, featured a four-part session about the U.S. government’s Open Identity for Open Government Initiative. NIH is leading government adoption of this initiative through the NIH Federated Identity Service. NIH demonstrated the first production use of open identity technologies at the iTrust Forum by showing how the Federated Identity Service now accepts logins from several of the ten OpenID and Information Card identity providers who have announced participation in the initiative.

In a separate demonstration, Don Schmidt of Microsoft showed a prototype “multi-protocol selector” – software that will enable users to do both OpenID and Information Card registration/login to websites through one simple, safe, visual interface. This will make authentication at many different websites dramatically simpler for users while at the same time providing strong protection against the main source of phishing attacks.

ICF Executive Director Drummond Reed and OpenID Foundation Executive Director Don Thibeau presented the Open Identity Framework (OIF), a new open trust framework model being developed jointly by the ICF and OIDF to solve the problem of how third-party portable identity credentials such as OpenID and Information Cards can be trusted in very large deployments, such as across the entire U.S. population and all U.S. government websites.

As described in the two foundation’s first joint white paper, the OIF is being developed to meet the requirements of the U.S. ICAM Trust Framework Provider Adoption Process (TFPAP). It applies the principles of open source software and open community development to the definition and deployment of trust frameworks for multiple trust communities around the world. It will allow identity providers to be certified for compliance with the levels of assurance (LOA) required by relying party websites, while also allowing relying parties to be certified for compliance with the levels of protection (LOP) that may be required by identity providers and the users they represent.

The OIF also applies market forces to certification and accountability by enabling identity providers and relying parties to make their own choice of assessor and auditor, provided they meet the qualifications specified by the trust framework for which they will provide assessment or auditing services.

The end goal of the Open Identity for Open Government Initiativeat NIH and its Center for Information Technology (CIT) is to give users of NIH websites and other electronic resources the ability to have a single account and login procedure that will allow access to all NIH applications, as well as other government and private sector applications. This will make it easier for users to access information resources, remove the responsibility for authentication from website and application owners, and improve security.

The Open Identity initiative is already expanding to other U.S. government agencies beyond NIH, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the General Services Administration (GSA). The Library of Congress has also expressed an interest in joining.

The ICF congratulates the achievements of the NIH Federated Identity team, led by Debbie Bucci, Valerie Wampler, Jane Small, Jim Seach, Tom Mason, and Peter Alterman, who were recognized with both the 2008 NIH Director’s Award and the Government Information Technology Executive Council (GITEC) 2009 Project Management Excellent Award.

Published by

Kim Cameron

Work on identity.