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User-Managed Access (UMA) gives a web user a unified control point for authorizing who and what can get access to his or her online personal data (such as identity attributes), content (such as photos), and web-based services (such as seeing viewing and making creating Twitter-style status updates), no matter where all those things "live" on the web. Further, UMA allows the user to make demands of the other side in order to test their suitability for receiving authorization. These demands can include requests for information (such as "Who are you?") and promises (such as "Do you agree to these Non-Disclosure Agreement terms?").

This is a tall order, with implications that go beyond cryptography and security, and web protocols and technology, into the realm of agreements and liability. While UMA targets end-user usability convenience and development simplicity as goals, . But it also seeks some measure of enforceability of authorization agreements, in order to empower ordinary web users more fully and to make the acts act of granting data and service access truly meaningfulinformed, informeduncoerced, and uncoercedmeaningful – no longer a matter of mere passive consent but rather a step that more fully empowers ordinary web users.

For all these reasons, the UMA Work Group is exploring issues related to authorization trustpolicy, contracts, liability, and enforceability that arise among the various actors in UMA interactions. (Note: This document is intended to be accessible to readers, even relatively nontechnical readers ones, who have expertise in these areas, and we welcome suggestions for improvement.)

Starter Scenarios

Let's imagine a web user, Alice Adams, who doesn't mind sharing her personal travel information with the right sources as long as the process of sharing is convenient (e.g., no requirements to alert recipients every time a new trip gets booked); her expectations for the uses of that information are met (e.g., she's not worried about the whole world knowing when her house is going to be empty); and she feels "in control" of what's allowed and not allowed (e.g., she can get an at-a-glance view of who's seeing what).

She uses a website called TravelIt.com (think TripIt) to store all of her travel itineraries. Since it's the nature of travel information to change frequently, she wants to be sure that her good friend Bob Baker always has the latest version so he can pick her up from the airport on time and make sure her cat is fed while she's away; he likes to use Schedewl.com (think Google Calendar) for subscribing to TravelIt. She would also like her social travel site Airplanr.com (think Dopplr) to pick up her itineraries and make them available to friends who are on that system.

Because Alice is a frequent and seasoned traveler, she's interested in entertaining discount offers from travelogue company FrodoReviews.com (think Frommer's) for making her itineraries available to them for survey purposes.

To this picture, UMA adds the possibility of a new kind of website: a kind of "traffic cop" for overseeing all these instances of travel itinerary sharing, which will help Alice manage her digital footprint. We'll call this site CopMonkey.com.

UMA overview and terminology

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  • An authorizing user: A web user who gets to be in charge of authorizing access to his or her "stuff" on the web (known as protected resources)
  • A host: One of possibly many websites where the authorizing user's data, content, and services resources are stored and managed in various fashions (all this "stuff" is known as protected resources)
  • A requester: One of possibly many web-enabled applications that seek access to the authorizing user's "stuff"resources; access may not mean just downloading or viewing, but could also include adding more "stuff" to be stored, or manipulating or transforming the "stuff" it in some other way
  • An authorization manager or AM: A unified web-based control point on the web that makes it easy for the authorizing user to set up protections for all those resources at all those their various hosts, and to control and track access to them by requesters

NowSo far, this description is fairly technical and, so far, relates only to the UMA web protocol itself. These four players are commonly referred to as "endpoints" in discussions of computing protocols (or sometimes as "entities" or "parties", but we'll avoid these in order to avoid confusion with the legal connotations of these words). Protocols define rules, and you can think of each these players as serving in a unique role with certain expectations and responsibilities, as if the rules were about soccer and governed the allowed actions of goalkeepers versus outfielders.

But remember Recall that the authorizing user can make demands of the other side to judge their suitability for access. This is where we We must ask: What is the nature of the "other side"? The authorizing user is flesh-and-blood, but the AM, host, and requester endpoints are just tools. They are implemented in software, and the software is deployed in the form of networked applications and services. A tool can't be responsible for the consequences of accessing an authorizing user's "stuff". For this reason, we introduce another important player that's not strictly part of the UMA protocol:

  • A requesting party: Either a legal person (such as corporation), or a real human being other than the authorizing user, who uses a requester endpoint to seek authorized access to some portion of that "stuff"protected resource.

Finally, we need to ask: What is the nature of these "demands" and their responses? Since we're talking about web interactions, the authorizing user isn't exactly sitting across a table from the requesting party in real time, pestering them with questions. Rather, the authorizing user can, at leisure, configure the AM with policies that constrain the conditions for access by others. When a requester endpoint comes calling, the AM may ask them to provide a set of the following:

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Now we can begin discussing potential access authorization agreements and liability that may obtain between two parties (yes, in the legal sense) interacting in an UMA environment: the authorizing user and the requesting party.

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Let's introduce a cast of characters that will help us explore different scenarios:

  • Alice is an authorizing user who is active on the web and uses a variety of web applications to store, manage, and share her data and content and services.
  • CopMonkey.com is a service provider that Alice has chosen to use as her unified authorization manager (AM) on the web. She had to create an account at CopMonkey to get started using it.
  • TravelRadar.com is a calendar service provider that Alice uses as a host for her travel information. She had to create an account at TravelRadar to get started using it.
  • FrodoReviews.com is a travelogue company that wants access to Alice's travel patterns for its own research/survey purposes.
  • Bob is a friend of Alice's who often picks her up from the airport when she comes home from her trips. Bob likes to use the DontForget.com online service to remember to retrieve her.
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The nature of claims

A claim may be affirmative, representing a statement of fact (as asserted by the requesting or another claim issuer); or promissory, a promise (as asserted by the requesting party specifically to the authorizing user). A statement of fact might be "The requesting party is over 18 years of age." A promise might be "The requesting party will adhere to the specific Creative Commons licensing terms indicated by the AM." There are technical dimensions to expressing and conveying claims, but since UMA strives to provide enforceability of resource-access agreements, there may also be legal dimensions.

In cases where a claim constitutes acceptance of an access-sharing contract offer made by the authorizing user (as presented by the AM as his or her agent in requiring the claim), the authorizing user and requesting party are the parties to the contract, and all other legal or natural persons running UMA-related services involved in managing such access are intermediaries that are not party to the contract (though they might end up being third-party beneficiaries in some cases).

Where the primary resource user and the authoring user differ, there is likely to be an interaction (invisible to UMA) at the host service that allows (or forces) the primary resource user to designate an authorizing user, and an agreement that the authorizing user acts as the primary resource user's agent or guardian or similar.

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Person-to-service access: a walkthrough

@@TBS - new diagram

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Person-to-person access: a walkthrough

@@TBS - new diagram

Parties and legal responsibilities

For our purposes in UMA 1.0, an authorizing user is always a natural person (a human being). We foresee use cases where the authorizing party could be a non-human, but our 1.0 scope sticks to human beings in this role to ensure that we think about how to craft the user experience for this person (who is the all-important "user" in UMA!). An authorizing user may set policies at the AM that end up legally binding him/her, depending on the claims coming from the requesting party in response.

A requesting party may be either a natural person or a legal person.

The AM and requester protocol endpoints, the software that implements them, and the services that deploy them are just tools to help the parties get to a desired result. However, the requesting party "behind" these tools is a party that may be held legally responsible for any claims made to the authorizing user. Thus, some legal person such as a company may operate the service that hosts or requests a resource, or offers authorization services.

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TBS

Here are the choices for requesting party:

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We are actively researching this issue. See the notes from UMA telecon 2010-03-18 for discussion about the impact of choosing one alternative over another.

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The nature of claims

A claim may be affirmative, representing a statement of fact (as asserted by the requesting or another claim issuer); or promissory, a promise (as asserted by the requesting party specifically to the authorizing user). A statement of fact might be "The requesting party is over 18 years of age." A promise might be "The requesting party will adhere to the specific Creative Commons licensing terms indicated by the AM." There are technical dimensions to expressing and conveying claims, but since UMA strives to provide enforceability of resource-access agreements, there may also be legal dimensions.

In cases where a claim constitutes acceptance of an access-sharing contract offer made by the authorizing user (as presented by the AM as his or her agent in requiring the claim), the authorizing user and requesting party are the parties to the contract, and all other legal or natural persons running UMA-related services involved in managing such access are intermediaries that are not party to the contract (though they might end up being third-party beneficiaries in some cases).

Where the primary resource user and the authoring user differ, there is likely to be an interaction (invisible to UMA) at the host service that allows (or forces) the primary resource user to designate an authorizing user, and an agreement that the authorizing user acts as the primary resource user's agent or guardian or similar.

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Mapping requesting parties to profiles for getting access tokens

We suspect that certain sharing patterns lend themselves to choosing different profiles for UMA's step 2 (getting a token).

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