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JSON Web Proofs

The information below is for an older version of this BOF request.
Document Type Proposed BOF request Snapshot
Title JSON Web Proofs
Last updated 2022-05-12
State Proposed
Editor Jeremie Miller
Responsible leadership
Send notices to (None)

Name: JSON Web Proofs


The JOSE RFCs and JWT, have been widely adopted for identity use cases, including for the widely-deployed OpenID Connect protocol and STIR. Concurrent to the growth of adoption of these standards has been an increasing societal focus on privacy. Common privacy themes in identity solutions that intersect with JWT are user consent and minimal disclosure. For example, OAuth provides a mechanism to obtain consent from the subject before issuing an access token, and the best practices are to minimize the authorized scope and claims to only those needed to achieve the person's goals.

In recent years, newer solutions have been evolving such as Verifiable Credentials that formalize the entities of Issuer, Holder, and Verifier. A Verifiable Credential lifecycle has three accompanying phases: issuance, storage, and presentation. The JOSE and JWT standards have also been adopted (VC-JWT) and are being deployed for solutions using this new approach, but they have limitations that make privacy protection challenging.

The first limitation is handling selective disclosure (or data minimization), where the Holder is able to limit how much information is being shared with a Verifier. Using a VC-JWT requires asking the Issuer to perform the requested disclosure selection, which limits the transaction to being online with an available issuer, and also informs the issuer of the subject's choices. To work around this, there have been numerous ideas such as using a Merkle Tree or other hash-based constructs that move the claims outside of the JWT and only encapsulates salted hashes of the claims that can be used to verify them. These approaches are not well developed, and present new challenges in supporting communication protocols that must now convey the claims separately from the JWT.

The second limitation is unlinkability. With the widespread prevalence of user tracking on the web, it is important to reduce or eliminate implicit tracking capability in all identity exchanges. This may seem counter-intuitive, given the purpose of most digital identity technology is to identify someone. While it is indeed a common experience to share unique trackable identifiers, such as email addresses, names, and locations, there are a far larger number of identity-related exchanges that only involve an access control decision or capability without needing to uniquely identify a person. The only solution today using a JWT is to request a new one from the issuer each time, or ahead of time in batches -- a single use token.

Accomplishing both of these capabilities efficiently and securely has been a multi-decade research activity for a sizeable academic and applied cryptography community, often referred to anonymous credentials from an early paper on the subject. Some of the cryptographic techniques developed in this space involve pairing-friendly curves, zero-knowledge proofs, accumulators, and mercurial signatures (to name just a few). The requirements to adopt any of these solutions live entirely outside of the current scope of the JOSE and JWT specifications.

This BOF aims to foster a discussion of establishing a new Working Group to develop a set of companion specifications to JOSE that are designed to support the privacy-enhancing primitives of selective disclosure and unlinkability. These specifications would standardize defined proof-based cryptographic schemes into a compatible and serializable container format; creation or standardization of those schemes is not in scope.

Required Details

  • Status: WG Forming
  • Responsible AD: TBD
  • BOF proponents: Jeremie Miller <>, Michael B. Jones <>
  • BOF chairs: TBD
  • Number of people expected to attend: 40
  • Length of session (1 or 2 hours): 1 hours
  • Conflicts (whole Areas and/or WGs)
  • Chair Conflicts: TBD
  • Technology Overlap: COSE Working Group
  • Key Participant Conflict: Ivaylo Petrov

Information for IAB/IESG


  • Any protocols or practices that already exist in this space:
  • VC-JWT
  • BBS
  • Anoncreds
  • Which (if any) modifications to existing protocols or practices are required:
  • Extend JOSE and COSE to support a zero-knowledge proofs
  • Which (if any) entirely new protocols or practices are required:
  • New container formats based on JOSE and COSE
  • Open source projects (if any) implementing this work:
  • TBD