[Openid-specs-ab] Proposing a new 'email_authoritative' ID Token claim

Mike Jones Michael.Jones at microsoft.com
Fri Dec 11 06:46:49 UTC 2015

An alternative to defining a new claim would be to further specify the semantics of the existing one such that it works for the use cases we’re interested in.  We should definitely discuss that alternative before adding a new standard claim definition.

                                                          -- Mike

From: Openid-specs-ab [mailto:openid-specs-ab-bounces at lists.openid.net] On Behalf Of William Denniss
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2015 10:43 PM
To: openid-specs-ab at lists.openid.net
Subject: [Openid-specs-ab] Proposing a new 'email_authoritative' ID Token claim

Hi All,

We support the email_verified claim on our OpenID Connect endpoints today, using the spec-defined<http://openid.net/specs/openid-connect-core-1_0.html#StandardClaims> meaning of the claim.  However, when looking at things like FastIDV<http://wdenniss.com/fastidv>, where ID Tokens can be used for login via a trusted OP, some weaknesses of email_verified emerge.  Specifically that there is no guarantee as to when the email address was verified. This leads us to think that this probably isn't a strong enough assertion for login or account recovery. Typical email-based account recovery requires the user perform a fresh email verification – so using the email_verified claim from an ID Token is technically weaker than the RP actually sending the user an email.

In many cases though, we actually host the mailbox for the email address in question, or are otherwise in an authoritative position to state that if the user were to do an email verification, it would pass. I believe that many other OPs would be in a similar position.

I would like to propose a new ID Token claim to be able to assert this stronger email claim, defined as such:


True if the OP authoritatively represents the End-User's email address; otherwise false. When this Claim Value is true, the OP asserts that the End-User is in control of the e-mail account, and would be able to pass email verification were it to be performed at that moment. OPs that manage the mailbox of the e-mail address are considered authoritative, as are OPs contracted by the owner of the mailbox to provide identity services. The exact logic to determine whether the OP is authoritative is dependent upon the trust framework or contractual agreements within which the parties are operating.

So basically I see "email_verified" as good enough proof to allow a user to perform an action like subscribe to a mailing list without separate email verification, but only "email_authoritative" should be used for login/account recovery purposes. Two distinct levels of proof, for widely different use-cases.

We also considered simply re-defining our own handling of email_verified to return a more strict response (i.e. just not asserting it for non-authoritative addresses), but I see some risks in this, for example, that other OPs will continue to assert email_verified on Gmail accounts (quite validly), and that RPs may get confused if we document different semantics to the spec, potentially applying our logic to other OPs.

In order to pass the specification required basis for a new public claim, I am thinking to add this new claim to the draft FastIDV spec as it is that use-case that has sparked this requirement.

Interested to hear your thoughts on this proposal.


PS. Thank you John Bradley for the extremely productive conversation on this topic on the sidelines of IETF94. Originally I was going to proposed email_hosted, but you made some good points that OPs may still be able to authoritatively represent an email address they don't host. I incorporated that feedback into this proposal.

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