W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webpayments@w3.org > August 2011

Web Payments and Identity Verification (was: PaySwarm and illegal sales? CCN)

From: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 2011 16:49:45 -0400
Message-ID: <4E595869.5040001@digitalbazaar.com>
To: public-webpayments@w3.org
>> It would effectively be a ruling that if you
>> want to distribute content on the Web, you have to pre-register it at
>> a central authority.
> No, I believe your "distribute" is too broad: even if there is a central
> registration database, one will only need to do this if they want the
> kind of control -- for financial or copyright reasons -- that this
> automatic checking can give. People who don't want to use it can
> continue as they are today. It would be an opt-in system, with the
> owners/creators being the people who register their own works. At this
> point I also see no problem with allowing pseudonyms, so whistleblowers
> and political activists can still use it, as well as people who just
> wish to be anonymous relative to their published works; much like book
> publishers do successfully now, and have for centuries, with authors who
> wish to remain pseudonymous.

Those requirements seem diametrically opposed to one another. How can 
you have a central authority that is required to check that ownership 
claims for a particular piece of content is valid /and/ have anonymity 
at the same time for whistle-blowers and political activists?

What this is really boiling down to is the fundamental question of "Who 
do you trust?"

A subset of journalists may trust a particular whistle-blower 
(WikiLeaks, Anonymous, LulzSec), while others wouldn't. The same for 
political activists, the same for book publishers. Who we trust is 
contextual and important, so I do agree that there needs to be some open 
way of publishing and retrieving the components of one's online 
identity. We've been impressed with a sub-set of WebID to publish 
identity (public keys, which are then used to verify digital signatures).

WebID Introduction

WebID Demo Blog Post

This approach is decentralized by design, but can have a centralized 
lookup component to provide an optimization. So, in order to tell my 
software who I trust and who I don't, I can specify an IRI to the 
identities that I trust and the ones that I don't, like so:


If you go to the WebID above, you can see that the public key associated 
with the identity IRI is at the bottom right of the page. The data is 
also machine-readable via RDFa. This means that any software agent can 
be told who to trust and who not to trust by listing a bunch of IRIs. 
You also know if you can trust the IRI if another IRI can vouch for it. 
For example, if you trust VeriSign and they have said that they trust 
the IRI above (via a digital signature), then you know that you can 
probably trust the IRI above. You can also assert that you don't trust 
the IRI above for whatever reason.

So, the power on who to trust and who not to trust should ultimately be 
in the hands of each and every person. This is true today with SSL 
certificates, but we want to make it a bit easier to make these sorts of 
statements online with WebID and PaySwarm. Note that WebID isn't a 
requirement for PaySwarm, we just think there are some useful aspects of 
it that we can use. Namely,

1) The ability to specify an identity via an IRI. People shouldn't be
    exposed to this level of detail, and should probably have a nice
    UI that they can use to browse identities, instead.
2) The ability to specify a public key and associate it with the
    identity IRI.
3) Ensuring that #1 and #2 are machine readable via RDFa or some
    similar automated data extraction mechanism.

With those three simple concepts above, we can build a robust trust 
framework that is agile and decentralized for Web Payments. This is 
currently what the PaySwarm implementation does for machine-readable 
identity, including the expression of public keys (used to verify 
digital signatures).

-- manu

Manu Sporny (skype: msporny, twitter: manusporny)
Founder/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Uber Comparison of RDFa, Microformats and Microdata
Received on Saturday, 27 August 2011 20:50:16 UTC

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