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RE: Today's presentation on Credentials v Capabilities

From: <steve.e.magennis@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:58:00 -0800
To: "'Joe Andrieu'" <joe@legreq.com>, "'Credentials Community Group'" <public-credentials@w3.org>
Message-ID: <020b01d5e6b7$40121c30$c0365490$@gmail.com>
Joe, thanks for elevating these distinctions. I've been trying to wrap my
head around a number of credential use cases to see how they hold up. Hoping
you can share you thinking here:

*	Looking at possible attenuations in the directed banking capability
example, e.g. a controller can cut, but not sign a check. As I understood
the presentation, the bank only cares about the capability/attenuation
presented to it and not the person presenting it. If someone other than the
controller were to take possession of the capability, the bank would gladly
allow the check cutting action regardless of that person's actual role. Does
this imply that the responsibility of  enforcing real-world attenuation and
delegation would be left to the original recipient of a capability to manage
by making sure only the right people obtain access to capabilities? I'm not
seeing how the issuer service side could enforce this.
*	I've always thought about credentials as coming in different flavors

*	Self-attestation: "I like ice-cream" | The truth of the statement by
itself cannot be easily verified
*	Sovereign statement : "The sky is blue"  | The truth of the
statement must be independently verified
*	3rd party claim: "Alice earned her degree" | Truth of the statement
is evaluated based on the reputation of the issuer
*	Issuer / Verifier: "I hereby confer the right to Bob (or anyone
possessing the credential) to sit in seat A23 at tonight's showing of Thelma
and Louise."   | The truth of the statement is pre-determined if the issuer
and verifier are the same

In the case where the issuer and verifier are the same, and the verifier
chooses to ignore the identity of the holder, is that essentially a
capability? It definitely gets more complicated when provenance and
delegation chains come into play and maybe this is the distinguishing point
you and Daniel were making. For example if an issuer and verifier (issuer's
service) are not the same, but rather cooperative entities where one issues
and the other consumes, but both play by pre-arranged rules.

 

-S

 

From: Joe Andrieu <joe@legreq.com> 
Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 12:50 PM
To: Credentials Community Group <public-credentials@w3.org>
Subject: Re: Today's presentation on Credentials v Capabilities

 

Daniel,

 

Let's dive into this. I agree that VCs can be used for delegation. I just
don't believe they are the most appropriate way to do so. You can, of
course, say *anything* in a VC, so you can easily make statements that are
interpreted as delegations. But VCs themselves do not provide mechanisms to
specify or interpret capabilities and delegations.

 

So, let's take your first statement:

1. Credentials can be made delegatable, and they can be attenuated. This
collapses the most interesting differences between credentials and
capabilities, making a special new data format for capabilities unnecessary.
Capabilities can be done with VCs (any type that's
W3C-data-model-compliant).

 

Can you provide an example? Even better if you start with a VC, issued by
Joe, that claims "The sky is blue". We'll call this VC X.

 

What does it mean to delegate that? Or attenuate it.

 

Yes, I can make statements about that statement. I can even make arbitrary
statements about that statement. I could say "Joe delegates the credential
X". But these appear to have no meaning.

 

Generally only privileges are delegatable. So, the only VCs that are
delegatable are those expressing privileges. But which VCs should be
interpreted that way? Certainly not VC X. So how does anyone know which VCs
are delegatable? Further, how does anyone know the boundaries of that
delegation, that is, the range of verifiers for whom such delegation is
appropriate? Just because I give my child a VC saying they can use my credit
card to buy milk at Ralph's doesn't mean that the cashier at LiquorMart will
honor that constraint. Heck, all they need is the credit card # and a
willing cashier. More importantly, will the credit card companies recognize
that delegation as legitimate? What if they accept the first one (because
"Milk from Ralph's" is fairly well defined) but they reject the second one?
More likely, because the LiquorMart POS almost certainly doesn't require a
VC of any particular type, the cashier will probably just make the sale. In
contrast, the same use case using zCaps would originate at the credit card
company and invoking it at either the LiquorMart or Ralph's would
definitively validate the purchase according to the delegation framework as
defined by the credit card company... and the retailer would immediately
know whether or not the transaction is valid.

 

zCaps is a particular set of semantically rigorous operations that define,
without ambiguity, how delegation and invocation proceeds for particular
actions at a given issuer. I have my doubts about the wisdom of shoe-horning
custom semantics into the VC structure, which is meant for verifying
statements by one source at another. Statements across trust boundaries and
actions within a singular trust context are two very different beasts, IMO.

 

I also read through the article contrasting zCaps with your approach
(https://github.com/hyperledger/aries-rfcs/blob/master/concepts/0104-chained
-credentials/contrast-zcap-ld.md). 

 

I won't go into it line-by-line here, but I do invite others to review it. 

 

There are some misconceptions about how zCaps work (verifying a DID
signature doesn't require phoning home to the DID subject) and some root
disagreements about priorities (ZKP ALL-THE-THINGS). I also have my doubts
about the security implications of "short circuiting" VC issuance.

 

That said, I'll repeat my opening statement. YES, you can use VCs to
construct delegations. 

 

But IMO doing so is barely more rigorous than using a printed contract for
the same purpose. Maybe it will be accepted by a verifier, maybe it won't.
Maybe it will make sense to a verifier, maybe it won't. Maybe it will be
delegated appropriately, maybe it won't. Maybe the verifier will be able to
make sense of delegations, maybe they won't. zCaps fixes all that ambiguity,
IMO.

 

Let me finish by inviting you to present your approach on a future call. My
discussion was to socialize a distinction between credentials and
capabilities that is creating value for people I'm working with. As CCG
co-chair, it would be a service to the community if you could present your
approach to directed capabilities.

 

Would you be up for that?

 

-j

 

On Tue, Feb 18, 2020, at 10:52 AM, Daniel Hardman wrote:

FWIW, I would like to offer the following alternative perspective to the
ideas in Joe's slides.

 

1. Credentials can be made delegatable, and they can be attenuated. This
collapses the most interesting differences between credentials and
capabilities, making a special new data format for capabilities unnecessary.
Capabilities can be done with VCs (any type that's
W3C-data-model-compliant).

 

2. The problem of extending privileges (delegation and attenuation) is
actually a special case of the more general problem of data provenance.
Delegation just requires that we show the provenance of privileges (did
these privileges derive from someone who had them to give away?). But
solving the data provenance problem has additional far-reaching benefits (a
small employer can prove the provenance of data that they collected from an
employee, that originated in a passport -- and the assurance associated with
the employment credential, for those attributes, can be as strong as it was
for data directly from the passport itself, instead of being governed by
whatever trust someone might be inclined to give to the small and unfamiliar
employer).

 

This is discussed at length in Aries RFC 0104:
https://github.com/hyperledger/aries-rfcs/blob/master/concepts/0104-chained-
credentials/README.md

 

 

On Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 11:06 AM Joe Andrieu <joe@legreq.com
<mailto:joe@legreq.com> > wrote:

 

Here's a link to the powerpoint for today's tech talk.

 

https://github.com/w3c-ccg/meetings/blob/gh-pages/2020-02-18/credentials_and
_capabilities.pptx?raw=true

 

-j

 

--

Joe Andrieu, PMP
joe@legreq.com <mailto:joe@legreq.com> 

LEGENDARY REQUIREMENTS
+1(805)705-8651

Do what matters.
http://legreq.com <http://www.legendaryrequirements.com> 

 

 

 

--

Joe Andrieu, PMP
joe@legreq.com <mailto:joe@legreq.com> 

LEGENDARY REQUIREMENTS
+1(805)705-8651

Do what matters.
http://legreq.com <http://www.legendaryrequirements.com> 

 

 
Received on Tuesday, 18 February 2020 23:58:16 UTC

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