Bring Your Own Identity

A special case of the three party model where the service provider specifies the technical methods that it will accept, but allows the requester to choose any identity service they like.  The service provider does not set details for identity verification or authentication and simply assumes that the requester has chosen one that’s good enough for their purposes. The service provider and requester agree to terms, the requester and the identity provider agree to terms, but the service provider does not make any agreement with the identity provider.

Examples: The most common Bring Your Own Identity technologies are SAML, OpenID, and email address verification.

When to Use: The service provider does not want to bear the cost of managing the requester’s identity, or wants to simplify account creation and sign-in.

Advantages: The requester can use an existing identity rather than having to create a new one for this service. If the requester chooses a good identity provider, the service gets the benefit of higher security with no additional cost.

Disadvantages: The account is only as secure as the authenticating service. The service provider depends on the user to select a trustworthy identity service.

Designing a user interface that allows the user to specify an identity provider has proved to be difficult.  Consumers don’t generally have the experience to know a good identity provider from a bad one so, in practice, they depend upon seeing a familiar brand. When OpenID was first introduced, supporting sites attempted to help by listing a large set of brands so that the user could choose a familiar one. The resulting products ended up so festooned with logos that they were likened to NASCAR cars, and ended up being more confusing than helpful.

Ability to Scale: Very high.