Mozilla’s Identity Platform Finalist for Federal Support

Alex Fowler

Partnering with City of San Francisco and MacArthur-supported Youth Organizations to Jump Start a Vibrant Identity Ecosystem

Mozilla is one of 27 finalists selected to compete for $10 million in funding as part of the US government’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). Our proposal brings together the City of San Francisco and participants in the MacArthur Foundation supported Digital Media Learning Competition to use Persona, our platform for trusted identity, as the basis for establishing, supporting, and seeding demand for a federated, secure, and dynamic identity ecosystem.

Mozilla wants to help make the Web better. We want the Internet to continue to drive creativity, education, and economic growth. And we want people to understand, shape and be in control as more and more of their lives go online.

Mozilla’s proposed pilot brings together multiple partners who reflect many of the more important roles people take on in their day-to-day lives online. From citizens accessing government sites and services, to consumers buying and using apps, and for parents providing their kids with access to educational content and learning tools, we believe Persona has huge potential to improve the log-in experience for millions of people.

“Forms are, unquestionably, the most common medium of information exchange between  government and citizens,” says Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Offier for the  City & County of San Francisco. “Working within a trusted identity  framework would let citizens automatically populate forms with their  information, let us increase the number of services available online,  and even potentially allow residents to use us to vouch for their  identity to other services. There are all sorts of efficiencies to be gained.”

“We’re working, through Open Badges and other programs, to build bridges  between what kids are learning in school and out of school,” states Connie Yowell, the MacArthur Foundation’s Director of Education. “These links need to be based on a framework for secure identity that builds  parents directly into the process and empowers kids to share information  within trusted networks. Solving this problem will open up amazing  opportunities around integrated and connected learning.”

We’re excited to have the City and County of of San Francisco and a number of participants in the Digitial Media Learning Competition, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, as partners in our NSTIC proposal.

Our Vision for User-centric Identity

Mozilla’s commitment to Persona is driven by a central tenet: that the web should answer to users. Online sites, services and apps offer tremendous value and potential, but they also make it easier for vendors to invade privacy, foster poor security practices by users, and present attractive targets for fraud.

We’re building Persona to help everyone benefit from online services while mitigating risk of misuse and abuse of user data.

Persona is designed around three core principles:

  1. Individuals should be in control of their personal data;
  2. Identity should be built on open standards, cross-platform and interoperable; and
  3. Identity should be federated: a diversity of Identity Platforms (IdPs) and Relying Parties (RPs) offering direct, anonymous, and pseudonymous certifications across public, private, and non-profit sector applications.

Through this pilot, Mozilla will work to address the remaining design, technical, legal, and business process barriers to widespread adoption and growth of trusted identity.

Persona is the Ideal Platform for an NSTIC Pilot

NSTIC is the Administration’s initiative to “improve upon the passwords currently used to log-in online” and to jump start “a vibrant marketplace that allows people to choose among  multiple identity  providers – both private and public – that would issue trusted  credentials that prove identity.”

Mozilla, the City & County of San Francisco, and a consortium of major web sites serving the children’s market sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation will launch a pilot that “demonstrate[s] the feasibility of the Identity Ecosystem, via projects that link multiple sectors, including multiple Identity providers and relying parties.”

We’ll design, build, and pilot the technical architecture, business and legal framework, and public-facing functionality of integrated implementations that see people able to:

  • Support citizen-to-government interactions with the City & County of San Francisco;
  • Make app experiences seamless with support for trusted identity, tying apps directly to users, and making them available on any device; and
  • Help kids learn online with MacArthur-funded youth organizations via COPPA-compliant, trusted identity systems that increase protection for children online and make possible new and innovative learning experiences.

Mozilla’s proposal was selected out of 186 submissions. Final proposals are due in early May. We hope to be among the final five to eight organizations selected to begin work this Fall to build a standards-based identity infrastructure that is privacy preserving, trustworthy and scalable.