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Versions: 00                                                            
Network Working Group                                        A. Davidson
Internet-Draft                                       Cloudflare Portugal
Intended status: Informational                               N. Sullivan
Expires: May 6, 2020                                          Cloudflare
                                                       November 03, 2019

                       The Privacy Pass Protocol


   This document specifies the Privacy Pass protocol for anonymously
   authorizing clients with services on the Internet.

Note to Readers

   Source for this draft and an issue tracker can be found at
   https://github.com/grittygrease/draft-privacy-pass [1].

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at https://datatracker.ietf.org/drafts/current/.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on May 6, 2020.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2019 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (https://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must

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   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.1.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.2.  Preliminaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       1.2.1.  Elliptic curve points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       1.2.2.  Protocol messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.3.  Layout  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.4.  Requirements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   2.  Generalized protocol overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.1.  Key initialisation phase  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     2.2.  Issuance phase  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     2.3.  Redemption phase  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       2.3.1.  Double-spend protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       2.3.2.  Finalization during redemption  . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     2.4.  Error types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   3.  Key registration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     3.1.  Key rotation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     3.2.  Client retrieval  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     3.3.  Key revocation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     3.4.  VOPRF ciphersuites  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     3.5.  ECDSA key material  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   4.  Protocol configurations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     4.1.  Single-Issuer Single-Verifier . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     4.2.  Single-Issuer Forwarding-Verifier . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     4.3.  Single-Issue Asynchronous-Verifier  . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     4.4.  Bounded-Issuers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
       4.4.1.  Fixing the bound  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
   5.  Privacy considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
     5.1.  User segregation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
       5.1.1.  Key rotation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
       5.1.2.  Large numbers of issuers  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     5.2.  Tracking and identity leakage . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
   6.  Security considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
     6.1.  Double-spend protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
     6.2.  Key rotation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
     6.3.  Token exhaustion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
   7.  Summary of privacy and security parameters  . . . . . . . . .  21
     7.1.  Justification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  22
     7.2.  Example parameterization  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
   8.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
     8.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
     8.2.  URIs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24

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1.  Introduction

   In some situations, it may only be necessary to check that a client
   has been previously authorized by a service; without learning any
   other information.  Such lightweight authorization mechanisms can be
   useful in quickly assessing the reputation of a client in latency-
   sensitive communication.

   The Privacy Pass protocol was initially introduced as a mechanism for
   authorizing clients that had already been authorized in the past,
   without compromizing their privacy [DGSTV18].  This document seeks to
   standardize the usage and parametrization of the protocol.

   The Internet performance company Cloudflare has already implemented
   server-side support for an initial version of the Privacy Pass
   protocol [PPSRV].  This support allows clients to bypass security
   mechanisms, providing that they have successfully passed these
   mechanisms previously.  There is also a client-side implementation in
   the form of a browser extension that interacts with the Cloudflare
   network [PPEXT].

   The main security requirement of the Privacy Pass protocol is to
   ensure that previously authenticated clients do not reveal their
   identity on reauthorization.  The protocol uses a cryptographic
   primitive known as a verifiable oblivious pseudorandom function
   (VOPRF) for implementing the authorization mechanism.  The VOPRF is
   implemented using elliptic curves and is currently in a separate
   standardization process [OPRF].  The protocol is split into three
   stages.  The first two stages, initialisation and evaluation, are
   essentially equivalent to the VOPRF setup and evaluation phases from
   [OPRF].  The final stage, redemption, essentially amounts to
   revealing the client's secret inputs in the VOPRF protocol.  The
   security (pseudorandomness) of the VOPRF protocol means that the
   client retains their privacy even after revealing this data.

   In this document, we will give a formal specification of the Privacy
   Pass protocol to be used in settings that require high performance.
   We will specify the necessary cryptographic operations required by
   the underlying VOPRF, along with recommendations on how to perform
   key rotation

1.1.  Terminology

   The following terms are used throughout this document.

   o  PRF: Pseudorandom function

   o  VOPRF: Verifiable oblivious PRF [OPRF]

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   o  Server: A service that provides access to a certain resource
      (typically denoted S)

   o  Client: An entity that seeks authorization from a server
      (typically denoted C)

   o  Key: Server VOPRF key

   o  Commitment: Corresponding public key to server's VOPRF key.

1.2.  Preliminaries

   Throughout this draft, let D be some object corresponding to an
   opaque data type (such as a group element).  We write bytes(D) to
   denote the encoding of this data type as raw bytes (octet strings).
   We assume that such objects can also be interpreted as Buffer
   objects, with each internal slot in the buffer set to the value of
   the one of the bytes.  For two objects x and y, we denote the
   concatenation of the bytes of these objects by (bytes(x) ..
   bytes(y)).  We assume that all bytes are first base64-encoded before
   they are sent as part of a protocol message.

   We use the notation "[ Ti ]" to indicate an array of objects T1, ...
   , TQ where the size of the array is Q, and the size of Q is implicit
   from context.

1.2.1.  Elliptic curve points

   When encoding elliptic curve points into existing data structures or
   into protocol messages, we assume that the curve points are first
   encoded into bytes.  We allow both uncompressed and compressed
   encodings, as long as the client and server are aligned on the
   encodings that they used.  Compressed encodings provide storage and
   communication benefits but are slightly more expensive to decode.

1.2.2.  Protocol messages

   Protocol messages can either be encoded in raw byte format, as
   base64-encoded string objects, or as JSON objects where all strings
   are represented in base64-encoded format.

1.3.  Layout

   o  Section 2: A generic overview of the Privacy Pass protocol based
      on VOPRFs.

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   o  Section 3: Describes the format of trusted registries that are
      used for holding public key commitments for each of the Privacy
      Pass issuers.

   o  Section 4: Details different configurations for using the Privacy
      Pass protocol.

   o  Section 5: Privacy considerations and recommendations arising from
      the usage of the Privacy Pass protocol.

   o  Section 6: Additional security considerations to prevent abuse of
      the protocol from a malicious client.

   o  Section 7: A summary of recommended parameter settings for
      ensuring privacy and security features of the protocol.

1.4.  Requirements

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

2.  Generalized protocol overview

   In this document, we will be assuming that a client (C) is attempting
   to authenticate itself in a lightweight manner to a server (S).  The
   authorization mechanism should not reveal to the server anything
   about the client; in addition, the client should not be able to forge
   valid credentials in situations where it does not possess any.

   In this section, we will give a broad overview of how the Privacy
   Pass protocol functions in achieving these goals.  The generic
   protocol can be split into three phases: initialisation, issuance and
   redemption.  As we mentioned previously, the first two stages are
   essentially identical to the setup and evaluation phases of the VOPRF
   in [OPRF].  The last stage, redemption, corresponds to the client
   revealing their secret input data during the VOPRF protocol to the
   server.  The server can use this data to confirm that the client has
   a valid VOPRF output, without being able to link the data to any
   individual issuance phase.

   Throughout this document, we adhere to the recommendations laid out
   in [OPRF] in integrating the VOPRF protocol into our wider workflow.
   Where necessary, we lay out exactly which part of the VOPRF API we
   use.  We stress that the generalized protocol only includes steps and
   messages that contain cryptographic data.

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   We decide against defining abstract interfaces for enclosing Privacy
   Pass data and functionality.  Instead, we describe the Privacy Pass
   protocol in the same group setting that is used in [OPRF].

2.1.  Key initialisation phase

   In the initialisation phase, essentially we run the VOPRF setup phase
   in that the server runs VOPRF_Setup(l) where l is the required bit-
   length of the prime used in establishing the order of the group GG.
   This outputs the tuple (k,Y,p) where: p = p(l) is the prime order of
   GG = GG(l); k is a uniformly sampled element from GF(p); and Y = kG
   for some fixed generator of GG.

   However, the server must first come to an agreement on what group
   instantiation to support.  This involves choosing an instantiation
   with the required security level implied by the choice of l.  The
   server has a list of supported group params (GROUP_PARAMS) and
   chooses an identifier, id, associated with the preferred group
   configuration, and also outputs the implied length of l.  It creates
   a Privacy Pass key object denoted by ppKey that has fields "private",
   "public" and "group".  It sets ppKey.private = bytes(k), ppKey.public
   = bytes(Y) and ppKey.group = id.

   The server creates a JSON object of the form below.

       "Y": pp_key.public,
       "expiry": <expiry_date>,
       "sig": <signature>

   The field "expiry" corresponds to an expiry date for the newly
   sampled key.  We recommend that each key has a lifetime of between 1
   month and 6 months.  The field "sig" holds an ASN1-encoded ECDSA
   signature evaluated over the contents of "Y" and "expiry".  The ECDSA
   parameters should be equivalent to the group instantiation used for
   the OPRF, and the signing key (ecdsaSK) should be long-term with a
   corresponding publicly available verification key (ecdsaVK).  We
   summarize the creation of this object using the algorithm
   PP_key_init(), which we define below.

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     function PP_key_init(k, Y, id) {
       var ppKey = {}
       ppKey.private = k
       ppKey.public = Y
       ppKey.group = id
       var today = new Date()
       var expiry = today.setMonth(today.getMonth() + n);
       var obj = {
         Y: ppKey.public,
         expiry: expiry,
         sig: ECDSA.sign(ecdsaSK, ppKey.public .. bytes(expiry)),
       return [ppKey, obj]

   Note that the variable n above should correspond to the number of
   months ahead that the expiry date should correspond to.

   We give a diagrammatic representation of the initialisation phase

    C(ecdsaVK)                                S(ecdsaSK)
                                              l = GROUP_PARAMS[id]
                                              (k,Y,p) = VOPRF_Setup(l)
                                              [ppKey,obj] = PP_key_init(k,Y,id)


    public = key.Y
    if (!ECDSA.verify(ecdsaVK, public .. bytes(obj.expiry)) {
    } else if (!(new Date() > obj.expiry)) {
    store(obj.id, obj.public)                            push(key)

   The variable obj essentially corresponds to a cryptographic
   commitment to the server's VOPRF key.  We abstract all signing and
   verification of ECDSA signatures into the ECDSA.sign and ECDSA.verify
   functionality [DSS].

   In the initialisation phase above, we require that the server
   contacts each viable client.  In Section 3 we discuss the possibility
   of uploading public key material to a trusted registry that client's
   access when communicating with the server.

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2.2.  Issuance phase

   The issuance phase allows the client to receive VOPRF evaluations
   from the server.  The issuance phase essentially corresponds to a
   VOPRF evaluation phase [OPRF].  In essence, the client generates a
   valid VOPRF input x (a sequence of bytes from some unpredictable
   distribution), and runs the VOPRF evaluation phase with the server.
   The client receives an output y of the form:

       y = VOPRF_Finalize(x, N, aux)

   where N is a group element, and aux is auxiliary data that is
   generated by the client.  More specifically, N is an unblinded group
   element equal to k*H_1(x) where H_1 is a random oracle that outputs
   elements in GG.  The client stores (x, y) as recommended in [OPRF].
   We give a diagrammatic overview of the protocol below.

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    C(x, aux)                                 S(ppKey)
    var ciph = retrieve(S.id)
    var (r,M) = VOPRF_Blind(x)


                                            (Z,D) = VOPRF_Eval(ppKey.private,
                                            var resp = {
                                              element: Z,
                                              proof: D,
                                              version: "key_version",


    var elt = resp.element
    var proof = resp.proof
    var version = resp.version
    var obj = retrieve(S.id, version)
    if obj == "error" {
    var N = VOPRF_Unblind(ciph.G,obj.Y,M,elt,proof)
    var y = VOPRF_Finalize(x,N,aux)
    if (y == "error") {


   In the diagram above, the client knows the VOPRF ciphersuite
   supported by the server when it retrieves in the first step.  It uses
   this information to correctly perform group operations before sending
   the first message.

2.3.  Redemption phase

   The redemption phase allows the client to reauthenticate to the
   server, using data that it has received from a previous issuance
   phase.  By the security of the VOPRF, even revealing the original
   input x that is used in the issuance phase does not affect the
   privacy of the client.

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    C()                                     S(ppKey)
    ciph1 = retrieve(S.id, "ciphersuite")
    a = pop()
    while (a != undefined) {
      (ciph2,x,y,aux) = a
      if (ciph1 != ciph2) {
        // ciphersuites do not match
        a = pop()
    if (a == undefined) {
      // no valid data to redeem


                                          if (store.includes(x)) {
                                          T = H1(x)
                                          N' = OPRF_Eval(ppKey.private, T)
                                          y' = OPRF_Finalize(x,N',aux)
                                          resp = (y' == y)
                                              ? "success"
                                              : "failure"


    output resp

   Note that the server uses the API provided by OPRF_Eval and
   OPRF_Finalize, rather than the corresponding VOPRF functions.  This
   is because the VOPRF functions also compute zero-knowledge proof data
   that we do not require at this stage of the protocol.

2.3.1.  Double-spend protection

   To protect against clients that attempt to spend a value x more than
   once, the server uses an index, store, to collect valid inputs and
   then check against in future protocols.  Since this store needs to
   only be optimized for storage and querying, a structure such as a
   Bloom filter suffices.  Importantly, the server must only eject this

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   storage after a key rotation occurs since all previous client data
   will be rendered obsolete after such an event.

2.3.2.  Finalization during redemption

   The last step if the issuance phase for the client is to run
   VOPRF_Finalize and store the output.  In some applications, it may be
   necessary to link the output of VOPRF_Finalize to the actual
   redemption that is occurring.  This can be done by tailoring the
   auxiliary data "aux" to something specific.

   In order to do this, it is necessary to store only (ciph, x, N) in
   the issuance phase of the protocol.  Then during the redemption
   phase, generate auxiliary data "aux" and compute
   VOPRF_Finalize(x,N,aux) after retrieving the triplet above.

2.4.  Error types

   o  KEY_VERIFICATION_ERROR: Error occurred when verifying signature
      and expiry date for a server public key

   o  CLIENT_VERIFICATION_ERROR: Error verifying issuance response from

   o  DOUBLE_SPEND_ERROR: Indicates that a client has attempted to
      redeem a token that has already been used for authorization

3.  Key registration

   Rather than sending the result of the key initialisation procedure
   directly to each client, it is preferable to upload the object obj to
   a trusted, tamper-proof, history-preserving registry.  By trusted, we
   mean from the perspective of clients that use the Privacy Pass
   protocol.  Any new keys uploaded to the registry should be appended
   to the list.  Any keys that have expired can optionally be labelled
   as so, but should never be removed.  A trusted registry may hold key
   commitments for multiple Privacy Pass service providers (servers).

   Clients can either choose to:

   o  poll the trusted registry and import new keys, rejecting any that
      throw errors;

   o  retrieve the commitments for the server at the time at which they
      are used, throwing errors if no valid commitment is available.

   To prevent unauthorized modification of the trusted registry,
   server's should be required to identify and authenticate themselves

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   before they can append data to their configuration.  Moreover, only
   parts of the registry that correspond to the servers configuration
   can be modifiable.

   The registry that we describe could be fulfilled by Key Transparency
   [keytrans] or other similar architectures.

3.1.  Key rotation

   Whenever a server seeks to rotate their key, they must append their
   key to the trusted registry.  We recommend that the trusted registry
   is arranged as a JSON blob with a member for each JSON provider.
   Each provider appends new keys by creating a new sub-member
   corresponding to an incremented version label along with their new
   commitment object.

   Concretely, we recommend that the trusted registry is a JSON file of
   the form below.

       "server_1": {
         "ciphersuite": ...,
         "1.0": {
           "Y": ...,
           "expiry": ...,
           "sig": ...,
         "1.1": {
           "Y": ...,
           "expiry": ...,
           "sig": ...,
       "server_2": {
         "ciphersuite": ...,
         "1.0": {
           "Y": ...,
           "expiry": ...,
           "sig": ...,

   In this structure, "server_1" and "server_2" are separate service
   providers.  The sub-member "ciphersuite" corresponds to the choice of
   VOPRF ciphersuite made by the server.  The sub-members "1.0", "1.1"
   of "server_1" correspond to the versions of commitments available to

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   the client.  Increasing version numbers should correspond to newer
   keys.  Each commitment should be a valid encoding of a point
   corresponding to the group in the VOPRF ciphersuite specified in

   If "server_2" wants to upload a new commitment with version tag
   "1.1", it runs the key initialisation procedure from above and adds a
   new sub-member "1.1" with the value set to the value of the output
   obj.  The "server_2" member should now take the form below.

       "server_2": {
         "ciphersuite": ...,
         "1.0": {
           "Y": ...,
           "expiry": ...,
           "sig": ...,
         "1.1": {
           "Y": ...,
           "expiry": ...,
           "sig": ...,

3.2.  Client retrieval

   We define a function "retrieve(server_id, version_id)" which
   retrieves the commitment with version label equal to version_id, for
   the provider denoted by the string server_id.  For example,
   retrieve("server_1","1.1") will retrieve the member labelled with
   "1.1" above.

   We implicitly assume that this function performs the following
   verification checks:

     if (!ECDSA.verify(ecdsaVK, obj.Y .. bytes(obj.expiry)) {
       return "error"
     } else if (!(new Date() < obj.expiry)) {
       return "error"

   If "error" is not returned, then it instead returns the entire
   object.  We also abuse notation and also use "ciph =

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   retrieve(server_id, "ciphersuite")" to refer to retrieving the
   ciphersuite for the server configuration.

3.3.  Key revocation

   If a server must revoke a key, then it uses a separate member with
   label "revoke" corresponding to an array of revoke versions
   associated with key commitments.  In the above example, if "server_2"
   needs to revoke the key with version "1.0", then it appends a new
   "revoke" member with the array "[ "1.0" ]".  Any future revocations
   can simply be appended to this array.  For an example, see below.

       "server_2": {
         "ciphersuite": ...,
         "1.0": {
           "Y": ...,
           "expiry": ...,
           "sig": ...,
         "1.1": {
           "Y": ...,
           "expiry": ...,
           "sig": ...,
         "revoked": [ "1.0" ],

   Client's are required to check the "revoked" member for new additions
   when they poll the trusted registry for new key data.

3.4.  VOPRF ciphersuites

   We strongly RECOMMEND that a server uses only one VOPRF ciphersuite
   at any one time.  Should a server choose to change some aspect of the
   ciphersuite (e.g., the group instantiation or other cryptographic
   functionality) we further RECOMMEND that the server create a new
   identifying label (e.g.  "server_1_${ciphersuite_id}") where
   ciphersuite_id corresponds to the identifier of the VOPRF
   ciphersuite.  Then "server_1" revokes all keys for the previous
   ciphersuite and then only offers commitments for the current label.

   An alternative arrangement would be to add a new layer of members
   between server identifiers and key versions in the JSON struct,

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   corresponding to "ciphersuite_id".  Then the client may choose
   commitments from the appropriate group identifying member.

   We strongly recommend that service providers only operate with one
   group instantiation at any one time.  If a server uses two VOPRF
   ciphersuites at any one time then this may become an avenue for
   segregating the user-base.  User segregation can lead to privacy
   concerns relating to the utility of the obliviousness of the VOPRF
   protocol (as raised in [OPRF]).  We discuss this more in Section 5.

3.5.  ECDSA key material

   For clients must also know the verification (ecdsaVK) for each
   service provider that they support.  This enables the client to
   verify that the commitment is properly formed before it uses it.  We
   do not provide any specific recommendations on how the client has
   access to this key, beyond that the verification key should be
   accessible separately from the trusted registry.

   While the number of service providers associated with Privacy Pass is
   low, the client can simply hardcode the verification keys directly
   for each provider that they support.  This may be cumbersome if a
   provider wants to rotate their signing key, but since these keys
   should be comparatively long-term (relative to the VOPRF key
   schedule), then this should not be too much of an issue.

4.  Protocol configurations

   We provide an overview of some of the possible ways of configuring
   the Privacy Pass protocol situation, such that it can be used as a
   lightweight trust attestation mechanism for clients.

4.1.  Single-Issuer Single-Verifier

   The simplest way of considering the Privacy Pass protocol is in a
   setting where the same server plays the role of issuer and verifier,
   we call this "Single-Issuer Single-Verifier" (SISV).  In SISV, we
   consider a server S that publishes commitments for their secret key
   k, that a client C has access to.

   When S wants to issue tokens to C, they invoke the issuance protocol
   where C generates their own inputs and S uses their secret key k.  In
   this setting, C can only perform token redemption with S.  When a
   token redemption is required, C and S invoke the redemption phase of
   the protocol, where C uses an issued token from a previous exchange,
   and S uses k as their input again.

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   In SISV, C proves that S has attested to the honesty of C at some
   point in the past (without revealing exactly when).  S can use this
   information to inform it's own decision-making about C without having
   to recompute the trust attestation task again.

4.2.  Single-Issuer Forwarding-Verifier

   In this setting, each client C obtains issued tokens from a server S
   via the issuance phase of the protocol.  The difference is that
   clients can prove that S has attested to their honesty in the past
   with any verifier V.  We still only consider S to hold their own
   secret key.

   When C interacts with V, V can ask C to provide proof that the
   separate issuer S has attested to their trust.  The first stage of
   the redemption phase of the protocol is invoked between C and V,
   which sees C send the unused token (x,y,aux) to V.  This message is
   then used in a redemption exchange between V and S, where V plays the
   role of the client.  Then S sends the result of the redemption
   exchange to V, and V uses this result to determine whether C has the
   correct trust attestation.

   This configuration is known as "Single-Issuer Forwarding-Verifier" or
   SIFV to refer to the verifier V who uses the output of the redemption
   phase for their own decision-making.

4.3.  Single-Issue Asynchronous-Verifier

   This setting is inspired by recently proposed APIs such as [TRUST].
   It is similar to the SIFV configuration, except that the verifiers V
   no longer interact with the issuer S.  Only C interacts with S, and
   this is done asynchronously to the trust attestation request from V.
   Hence "Asynchronous-Verifier" (SIAV).

   When V invokes a redemption for C, C then invokes a redemption
   exchange with S in a separate session.  If verification is carried
   out successfully by S, S instead returns a Signed Redemption Record
   (SRR) that contains the following information:

   "result": {
     "verifier": "V",

   The "signature" field carries a signature evaluated over the contents
   of "result" using a long-term signing key for the issuer S, of which
   the corresponding public key is well-known to C and V.  Then C can

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   prove that their trust attestation from S to V by sending the SRR to
   V.  The SRR can be verified by V by verifying the signature using the
   well-known public key for S.

   Such records can be cached to display again in the future.  The
   issuer can also add an expiry date to the record to determine when
   the client must refresh the record.

4.4.  Bounded-Issuers

   Each of the configurations above can be generalized to settings where
   a bounded number of issuers are allowed, and verifiers can invoke
   trust attestations for any of the available issuers.  Subsequently,
   this leads to three new configurations known as BISV, BIFV, BIAV.

   As we will discuss later in Section 5.1.2, configuring a large number
   of issuers can lead to privacy concerns for the clients in the
   ecosystem.  Therefore, we are careful to ensure that the number of
   issuers is kept strictly bounded by a fixed small number M.  The
   actual issuers can be replaced with different issuers as long as the
   total never exceeds M.  Moreover, issuer replacements also have an
   effect on client privacy that is similar to when a key rotation
   occurs, so replacement should only be permitted at similar intervals.

   See Section 5.1.2 for more details about safe choices of M.

4.4.1.  Fixing the bound

   Configuring any number of issuers greater than 1 effectively reduces
   privacy by an extra bit.  As a result, we see an exponential decrease
   in privacy in the number of issuers that are currently active.
   Therefore the value of M should be kept very low (we recommend no
   higher than 4).

5.  Privacy considerations

   We intentionally encode no special information into redemption tokens
   to prevent a vendor from learning anything about the client.  We also
   have cryptographic guarantees via the VOPRF construction that a
   vendor can learn nothing about a client beyond which issuers trust
   it.  Still there are ways that malicious servers can try and learn
   identifying information about clients that it interacts with.

   We discuss a number of privacy considerations made in [OPRF] that are
   relevant to the Privacy Pass protocol use-case, along with additional
   considerations arising from the specific ways of using the Privacy
   Pass protocol in Section 4.

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5.1.  User segregation

   An inherent features of using cryptographic primitives like VOPRFs is
   that any client can only remain private relative to the entire space
   of users using the protocol.  In principle, we would hope that the
   server can link any client redemption to any specific issuance
   invocation with a probability that is equivalent to guessing.
   However, in practice, the server can increase this probability using
   a number of techniques that can segregate the user space into smaller

5.1.1.  Key rotation

   As introduced in [OPRF], such techniques to introduce segregation are
   closely linked to the type of key schedule used by the server.  When
   a server rotates their key, any client that invokes the issuance
   protocol shortly afterwards will be part of a small number of
   possible clients that can redeem.  To mechanize this attack strategy,
   a server could introduce a fast key rotation policy which would force
   clients into small key windows.  This would mean that client privacy
   would only have utility with respect to the smaller group of users
   that have Trust Tokens for a particular key window.

   In the [OPRF] draft it is recommended that great care is taken over
   key rotations, in particular server's should only invoke key rotation
   for fairly large periods of time such as between 1 and 12 months.
   Key rotations represent a trade-off between client privacy and
   continued server security.  Therefore, it is still important that key
   rotations occur on a fairly regular cycle to reduce the harmfulness
   of a server key compromise.

   Trusted registries for holding Privacy Pass key commitments can be
   useful in policing the key schedule that a server uses.  Each key
   must have a corresponding commitment in this registry so that clients
   can verify issuance responses from servers.  Clients may choose to
   inspect the history of the registry before first accepting redemption
   tokens from the server.  If a server has updated the registry with
   many unexpired keys, or in very quick intervals a client can choose
   to reject the tokens.

   TODO: Can client's flag bad server practices?

5.1.2.  Large numbers of issuers

   Similarly to the key rotation issue raised above, if there are a
   large number of issuers, similar user segregation can occur.  In the
   BISV, BIFV, BIAV configurations of using the Privacy Pass protocol
   (Section 4), a verifier OV can trigger redemptions for any of the

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   available issuers.  Each redemption token that a client holds
   essentially corresponds to a bit of information about the client that
   OV can learn.  Therefore, there is an exponential loss in privacy
   relative to the number of issuers that there are.

   For example, if there are 32 issuers, then OV learns 32 bits of
   information about the client.  If the distribution of issuer trust is
   anything close to a uniform distribution, then this is likely to
   uniquely identify any client amongst all other Internet users.
   Assuming a uniform distribution is clearly the worst-case scenario,
   and unlikely to be accurate, but it provides a stark warning against
   allowing too many issuers at any one time.

   As we noted in Section 4.4, a strict bound should be applied to the
   active number of issuers that are allowed at one time.  We propose
   that allowing no more than 6 issuers at any one time is highly
   preferable (leading to a maximum of 64 possible user segregations).
   Issuer replacements should only occur with the same frequency as key
   rotations as they can lead to similar losses in privacy if users
   still hold redemption tokens for previously active issuers.

   In addition, we recommend that trusted registries indicate at all
   times which issuers are deemed to be active.  If a client is asked to
   invoke any Privacy Pass exchange for an issuer that is not declared
   active, then the client should refuse to participate in the protocol.  Selected trusted registries

   One recommendation is that only a fixed number (TODO: how many?) of
   issuers are sanctioned to provide redemption tokens at any one time.
   This could be enforced by the trusted registry that is being used.
   Client's can then choose which registries to trust and only accept
   redemption tokens from issuers accepted into those registries.  Maximum number of issuers inferred by client

   A second recommendation is that clients only store redemption tokens
   for a fixed number of issuers at any one time.  This would prevent a
   malicious verifier from being able to invoke redemptions for many
   issuers since the client would only be holding redemption tokens for
   a small set of issuers.  When a client is issued tokens from a new
   issuer and already has tokens from the maximum number of issuers, it
   simply deletes the oldest set of redemption tokens in storage and
   then stores the newly acquired tokens.

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5.2.  Tracking and identity leakage

   While redemption tokens themselves encode no information about the
   client redeeming them, there may be problems if we allow too many
   redemptions on a single page.  For instance, the first-party cookie
   for user U on domain A can be encoded in the trust token information
   channel and decoded on domain B, allowing domain B to learn the
   user's domain A cookie until either first-party cookie is cleared.
   Mitigations for this issue are similar to those proposed in
   Section 5.1.2 for tackling the problem of having large number of

   In SIAV, cached SRRs and their associated issuer public keys have a
   similar tracking potential to first party cookies in the browser
   setting.  Therefore these should be clearable by the client using
   standard deletion methods.

6.  Security considerations

   We present a number of security considerations that prevent a
   malicious actors from abusing the protocol.

6.1.  Double-spend protection

   All issuing server should implement a robust storage-query mechanism
   for checking that tokens sent by clients have not been spent before.
   Such tokens only need to be checked for each issuer individually.
   But all issuers must perform global double-spend checks to avoid
   clients from exploiting the possibility of spending tokens more than
   once against distributed token checking systems.  For the same
   reason, the global data storage must have quick update times.  While
   an update is occurring it may be possible for a malicious client to
   spend a token more than once.

6.2.  Key rotation

   We highlighted previously that short key-cycles can be used to reduce
   client privacy.  However, regular key rotations are still recommended
   to maintain good server key hygiene.  The key material that we
   consider to be important are:

   o  the VOPRF key;

   o  the signing key used to sign commitment information;

   o  the signing key used to sign SRRs in the SIAV configuration.

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   In summary, our recommendations are that VOPRF keys are rotated from
   anywhere between a month and a single year.  With an active user-
   base, a month gives a fairly large window for clients to participate
   in the Privacy Pass protocol and thus enjoy the privacy guarantees of
   being part of a larger group.  The low ceiling of a year prevents a
   key compromise from being too destructive.  If a server realizes that
   a key compromise has occurred then the server should revoke the
   previous key in the trusted registry and specify a new key to be

   For the two signing keys, these should both be well-known keys
   associated with the issuer (TODO: where should they be stored?).
   Issuers may choose to use the same key for both signing purposes.
   The rotation schedules for these keys can be much longer, if

6.3.  Token exhaustion

   When a client holds tokens for an issuer, it is possible for any
   verifier to invoke that client to redeem tokens for that issuer.
   This can lead to an attack where a malicious verifier can force a
   client to spend all of their tokens for a given issuer.  To prevent
   this from happening, methods should be put into place to prevent many
   tokens from being redeemed at once.

   For example, it may be possible to cache a redemption for the entity
   that is invoking a token redemption.  In SISV/SIFV, if the verifier
   requests more tokens then the client simply returns the cached token
   that it returned previously.  This could also be handled by simply
   not redeeming any tokens for the entity if a redemption had already
   occurred in a given time window.

   In SIAV, the client instead caches the SRR that it received in the
   asynchronous redemption exchange with the issuer.  If the same
   verifier attempts another trust attestation request, then the client
   simply returns the cached SRR.  The SRRs can be revoked by the
   issuer, if need be, by providing an expiry date or by signaling that
   records from a particular window need to be refreshed.

7.  Summary of privacy and security parameters

   We provide a summary of the parameters that we use in the Privacy
   Pass protocol.  These parameters are informed by both privacy and
   security considerations that are highlighted in Section 5 and
   Section 6, respectively.  These parameters are intended as a single
   reference point for implementers when implementing the protocol.

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   Firstly, let U be the total number of users, I be the total number of
   issuers.  Assuming that each user accept tokens from a uniform
   sampling of all the possible issuers, as a worst-case analysis, this
   segregates users into a total of 2^I buckets.  As such, we see an
   exponential reduction in the size of the anonymity set for any given
   user.  This allows us to specify the privacy constraints of the
   protocol below, relative to the setting of A.

         | parameter                              | value        |
         | Minimum anonymity set size (A)         | 5000         |
         |                                        |              |
         | Recommended key lifetime (L)           | 1 - 6 months |
         |                                        |              |
         | Recommended key rotation frequency (F) | L/2          |
         |                                        |              |
         | Maximum allowed issuers (I)            | log_2(U/A)-1 |
         |                                        |              |
         | Maximum active issuance keys           | 1            |
         |                                        |              |
         | Maximum active redemption keys         | 2            |
         |                                        |              |
         | Minimum security parameter             | 196 bits     |

7.1.  Justification

   We make the following assumptions in these parameter choices.

   o  Inferring the identity of a user in a 5000-strong anonymity set is

   o  After 2 weeks, all clients in a system will have rotated to the
      new key

   The maximum choice of I is based on the equation 1/2 * U/2^I = A.
   This is because I issuers lead to 2^I segregations of the total user-
   base U.  By reducing I we limit the possibility of performing the
   attacks mentioned in Section 5.1.

   We must also account for each user holding issued data for more then
   one possible active keys.  While this may also be a vector for
   monitoring the access patterns of clients, it is likely to
   unavoidable that clients hold valid issuance data for the previous
   key epoch.  This also means that the server can continue to verify
   redemption data for a previously used key.  This makes the rotation
   period much smoother for clients.

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   For privacy reasons, it is recommended that key epochs are chosen
   that limit clients to holding issuance data for a maximum of two
   keys.  By choosing F = L/2 then the minimum value of F is 1/2 a
   month, since the minimum recommended value of L is 1 month.
   Therefore, by the initial assumption, then all users should only have
   access to only two keys at any given time.  This reduces the
   anonymity set by another half at most.

   Finally, the minimum security parameter size is related to the
   cryptographic security offered by the group instantiation that is
   chosen.  For example, if we use an elliptic curve over a 256-bit
   prime field, then the actual group instantiation offers 128 bits of
   security (or a security parameter of size 128 bits).  However, as
   noted in [OPRF], OPRF protocols reduce the effective security of the
   group by log_2(M) where M is the number of queries.  As such, we
   choose the minimum size of the security parameter to be 196 bits, so
   that it is difficult for a malicious client to exploit this.

7.2.  Example parameterization

   Using the specification above, we can give some example
   parameterizations.  For example, the current Privacy Pass browser
   extension [PPEXT] has over 150,000 active users (from Chrome and
   Firefox).  Then log_2(U/A) is approximately 5 and so the maximum
   value of I should be 4.

   If the value of U is much bigger (e.g. 5 million) then this would
   permit I = log_2(5000000/5000)-1 = 8 issuers.

8.  References

8.1.  Normative References

   [DGSTV18]  "Privacy Pass, Bypassing Internet Challenges Anonymously",
              n.d., <https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/

   [DSS]      Federal Information Processing Standards Publication, .,
              "FIPS PUB 186-4: Digital Signature Standard (DSS)", n.d.,

              "Security Through Transparency", n.d.,

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   [OPRF]     "Oblivious Pseudorandom Functions (OPRFs) using Prime-
              Order Groups", n.d.,

   [PPEXT]    "Privacy Pass Browser Extension", n.d.,

   [PPSRV]    "Cloudflare Supports Privacy Pass", n.d.,

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [TRUST]    "Trust Token API", n.d., <https://github.com/WICG/trust-

8.2.  URIs

   [1] https://github.com/grittygrease/draft-privacy-pass

Authors' Addresses

   Alex Davidson
   Cloudflare Portugal
   Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro 29

   Email: alex.davidson92@gmail.com

   Nick Sullivan
   101 Townsend Street
   San Francisco
   United States of America

   Email: nick@cloudflare.com

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