[cabfpub] Definition of "Browser" in the Bylaws

Ryan Sleevi sleevi at google.com
Thu Oct 10 19:46:27 UTC 2013

Regrets that I was not able to make the call this morning. I have a few
questions inline.

On Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 12:28 PM, Ben Wilson <ben at digicert.com> wrote:

> During today’s call we discussed the definition of “browser” in the
> bylaws.  This is relevant due to Oracle’s potential interest in joining the
> Forum.  Back in 2009 we were looking at revising the browser category of
> membership.  I have pasted excerpts from that discussion below.  Today we
> had a similar discussion, which ended in a suggestion that we start this
> thread on the list.****
> The current bylaws define a “browser” member as “[an organization that]
> produces a software product intended for use by the general public for
> browsing the Web securely.” ****
> One suggestion is that we amend the definition in two ways – (1) adding
> the concept of “trust agency” and (2) broadening the definition beyond just
> “browsing the web”.

I'm reasonably concerned about the second definition.

We've obviously seen that there are a set of security decisions being made
for products that operate on the Internet, but are not meant for browsing
the web. These products and decisions can have significant negative impact
on overall user security. For example, note the challenges and objections
raised by several members with regards to deprecating internal server names
or 1024-bit RSA keys.

While I recognize the need for CAs to be able to engage their customer
base, I would like to see our group be able to focus on the broader
public's needs through web browsers, and let those flow into other product
lines as appropriate.

That is, if Payment Company 1 makes terminals that only support 1024-bit
RSA keys (or MD5), I would not want to see them able to hold the Internet's
security hostage.

> ****
> For example, the definition could be revised:****
> Browser/User Trust Agent (“Browser”):  The member organization produces a
> software product widely used by the general public that uses a root store
> for making trust decisions for relying parties.” ****
> During the conversation, we noted that we’re not talking about root store
> operators, but systems, operating platforms, and browsers.  ****
> Also, to what degree should we consider the size of the applicant, if
> there were several small ones that wanted to join and become voting
> members, that might have an impact, and since this is not trivial, we are
> opening up this discussion on the list.  ****
> One draft from 2009 was as follows:  “*Product Supplier* - The
> organization supplies a product intended for use by the general public that
> acts as a PKI relying party (making trust decisions on behalf of the user
> by actually processing certificates with software) to secure information or
> transactions.”****
> Here are the notes of our meeting May 14, 2009:****
> The voting category [would be] expanded beyond Web browsers to any product
> that acts as a PKI relying party. ****
> …****
> Would the author of a Web browser with two users be eligible for
> membership? Tim said that it would. ****
> …****
> Nick said that, because we have so few members in this category, someone
> with very little market presence could have disproportionate influence on
> the ballots. ****
> …****
> Johnathan said that he would like to be able to apply common sense on a
> case-by-case basis. ****
> Tim said that we have to ensure that our criteria are objective. ****
> Johnathan said that the proposed criteria do not distinguish between
> software that curates its own root store and software that relies entirely
> on another's root store. There are a lot of browsers that are extensions on
> Mozilla. They use the same root store and make the same EV decisions. If
> they were all to join, then Mozilla may be over-represented.****
> Tim suggested that it should depend upon whether their constituents viewed
> them as their agent in questions of trust.  Johnathan agreed.****
> Aaron said that there are browsers that use the Apple framework to make
> trust decisions and that should not be enough to disqualify them; their
> input as browsers is still very important.  ****
> Johnathan said that there is a case to be made that, if a piece of
> software has meaningfully different trust characteristics, then that is
> closer to a rational test.****
> Yngve said that we have encountered this situation with Google. He wasn't
> sure whether Google relies on its own root store or the platform's root
> store. Johnathan said that, without speaking for Chrome, his understanding
> was that they use the Microsoft root store on windows, but make their own
> EV determination, and that it is their intention to use 'platform native'
> cert stores on Mac and Linux as well.

While I realize these notes were from 2009, I do want to chime in that we
do ship a set of trust roots for Android, Chrome for iOS, ChromeOS, as well
as other consumer products such as the Google Chromecast. Additionally, as
noted in our root store policy, we reserve the right to remove any
certificate from being trusted, even if trusted by the underlying OS root
store, if we believe the inclusion impacts the security of our users. See

As such, I would presumably see Opera in a similar situation as Google, in
which the products they ship may derive their primary trust value from the
decisions made as part of the Chromium projects, but for which they reserve
the right (organizationally) to remove or modify such trusts as appropriate
to the security of their users.

> ****
> Bjørn said that he would not want to accept anyone who is simply
> 'skinning' Internet Explorer, for instance. ****
> Tim said that the wording we have is 'acts as a relying party'.  Bjørn
> said that it is slightly vague. Yngve suggested 'acting as a PKI relying
> party, making trust decisions on behalf of the user'. Bjørn agreed. Tim
> said that he would incorporate that clause, and if there were no objections
> he would take it to ballot.****
> ** **
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