Re: [community] from W3C….Fwd: Proposal: "User" header field

John Kemp john at jkemp.net
Wed Jul 17 23:54:43 UTC 2013


The problem, in general, with putting identifiers in HTTP requests is that they get mistaken for being real things. User is no worse (or better) than User-Agent. Remember all of the mess about how websites would attempt to render sites to clients based on the contents of the User-Agent header, and how long it's taken for something better to appear for that task?

'Just a hint' doesn't tell anyone what this is really going to be used for. Are there use-cases written down, in addition to a syntax? 

On a more specific level, this looks like "On-behalf-of" - a more indicative name than "user" for the seemingly potential usage (this request is performed on behalf of the user X)?

I'm not sure why OpenIDs couldn't appear in this header, FWIW. The recipient could run OpenID protocol with the client, regarding the identifier sent in the header. That would allow "verification" of the OpenID to occur, wouldn't it?

John

On Jul 17, 2013, at 7:41 PM, Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho at gmail.com> wrote:

> 
> 
> 
> On 18 July 2013 01:06, Nat Sakimura <sakimura at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi. 
> 
> I am forwarding the mail in the identity commons list. 
> 
> Apparently, there is an initiative at W3C proposing a new "identity" header, which I believe is actually harmful for the general public. Simple web sites are going to take it as authenticated identity and thus will cause identity theft of their users. 
> 
> Their proposal is to include 
> 
>   User: http://this.is.the/user/identifier
> 
> in the HTTP header. 
> 
> Could those of you active in W3C reach out to them? 
> 
> As I have written below, if it were to just include the IdP address as a hint, I am kind of fine. 
> 
> Thanks for sharing this.  Since this was my proposal, I hope I can shed a bit of light light.  
> 
> Firstly, it's not the W3C, simply a group of people brainstorming in the a W3C hosted forum (aka community groups).  The proposal has no official standing, but if there are no objections, the idea is to try and push the idea upstream.
> 
> Yes, the idea is that it is just a hint.  Note the text:
> 
> "The client SHOULD NOT send the User header field without the user's approval, as it might conflict with the user's privacy interests or their site's security policy. It is strongly recommended that the user be able to disable, enable, and modify the value of this field at any time prior to a request."
> 
> We asked the IETF if we could use the "From" header for this, but the feedback is that "From" is restricted to email, and this would be difficult to change.  The suggestion was to come up with a new header.  Very happy to have feedback, I've followed IIW work for many years.
>  
> 
> Best, 
> 
> Nat
> 
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Kaliya "Identity Woman" <kaliya-lists at identitywoman.net>
> Date: 2013/7/18
> Subject: Re: [community] from W3C….Fwd: Proposal: "User" header field
> To: Nat Sakimura <sakimura at gmail.com>
> Cc: "community at lists.idcommons.net" <community at lists.idcommons.net>
> 
> 
> Yes Nat,  Thats sort of what I got from reading it. 
> 
> Who among us is very active in the W3C world?
> 
> If no one should we be figuring out who should be?
> 
> Should we write them a letter asking them to send "identitish" proposals to IIW? or other forums for good input?
> 
> Maybe we should write something that is like understanding identity basics for technical specification folks across a range of standards bodies?
> 
> - Kaliya
> 
> On Jul 17, 2013, at 3:32 AM, Nat Sakimura wrote:
> 
>> Whoa, what's that?!
>> 
>> That's not only useless but actually harmful. 
>> 
>> I can kind of see some utility in sending the IdP address, but not the user. 
>> 
>> =nat via iPhone
>> 
>> On Jul 16, 2013, at 7:39, "Kaliya \"Identity Woman\"" <kaliya-lists at identitywoman.net> wrote:
>> 
>>> Hi folks, 
>>>  Apparently the W3C wants to send "user" names along in HTTP headers. 
>>>   I thought some folks who know about identity and how it does/could/should work might be up for chiming in over there. 
>>>   It seems like Authentication of identity might be a good thing rather then just assertion. 
>>>  - Kaliya
>>>  
>>> 
>>> Begin forwarded message:
>>> 
>>>> From: Christine 
>>> 
>>>> As you know, I'm a big proponent of open standards. For this reason I monitor many groups. You might be interested in the W3C Read Write Web community group: http://www.w3.org/community/rww/
>>>> 
>>>> I sent you a message a few weeks ago about Tabulator. 
>>>> 
>>>> See below messages about User header field. If you are not already a member, I recommend you join and contribute!
>>>> 
>>>> Christine
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> -------- Original Message --------
>>>> Subject:	Re: Proposal: "User" header field
>>>> Resent-Date:	Sat, 13 Jul 2013 16:19:02 +0000
>>>> Resent-From:	public-rww at w3.org
>>>> Date:	Sat, 13 Jul 2013 12:08:37 -0400
>>>> From:	Joe <presbrey at gmail.com>
>>>> To:	Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho at gmail.com>
>>>> CC:	public-rww <public-rww at w3.org>
>>>> 
>>>> Great job Melvin!
>>>> 
>>>> Data.fm sends the User header already :)
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> On Jul 13, 2013, at 10:55 AM, Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>>> I would be nice to be able to identify a user in HTTP, especially with read/write protocols and access control, it can be important to know who is trying to change something.
>>>>> 
>>>>> There has been some discussion on whether the "From" header can be used to identify a user in HTTP, and my from most people is that this would be a good candidate to send a user, but for historical reasons it's limited to email, and changing this would perhaps get some pushback from the IETF.
>>>>> 
>>>>> The suggestion has been to choose another header, so I thought that "User" might be a good candidate, since we have User Agent arleady.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Here's the proposed text:
>>>>> 
>>>>> [[
>>>>> User
>>>>> 
>>>>> The User request-header field, if given, SHOULD contain an identifier for the human user who controls the requesting user agent. The address SHOULD be machine-usable, as defined by the "URI General Syntax" RFC 3986
>>>>>        User   = "User" ":" URI
>>>>> 
>>>>> An example is:
>>>>> 
>>>>>        User: http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/card#i
>>>>> This header field MAY be used for logging purposes and as a means for identifying the source of invalid or unwanted requests. It SHOULD NOT be used as an insecure form of access protection. The interpretation of this field is that the request is being performed on behalf of the person given, who accepts responsibility for the method performed. In particular, robot agents SHOULD include this header so that the person responsible for running the robot can be contacted if problems occur on the receiving end.
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> The client SHOULD NOT send the User header field without the user's approval, as it might conflict with the user's privacy interests or their site's security policy. It is strongly recommended that the user be able to disable, enable, and modify the value of this field at any time prior to a request. 
>>>>> 
>>>>> ]]
>>>>> 
>>>>> Feedback welcome!
>>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> ____________________________________________________________
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> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> Nat Sakimura (=nat)
> Chairman, OpenID Foundation
> http://nat.sakimura.org/
> @_nat_en
> 
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