Q4 2009 Goals

For the rest of the year, I will investigate a substantially different approach to PaCT. I have learned important lessons while working on Prowl and PaCT this year, which has prompted a series of changes since early this summer.

The main lesson has to do with the importance of non-repudiation in a payment protocol such as PaCT. I have been trying to avoid designing PaCT around asymmetric encryption, with the idea that anything involving public key distribution, verification and revocation would lead to too much system complexity. Unfortunately, the ‘independent-witness-on-demand’ idea produces its own set of complexities while not giving as strong a sense of non-repudiation as a digital signature from each entity. In addition, it is more appropriate to move the concern of transparency to the separate stage of periodic report publication and audits.

I plan to revise code and documentation to reflect a refined strategy to be built around a core manifest or declaration document. Each entity with its own currency brand publishes a url to its manifest. The manifest will contain three main elements: certificate, accountant and report.

  • Certificate element: describes an entity’s public key and a list of certificate urls (x.509, pgp or some other format) for verification purposes. As with any pki or web of trust schemes, a seller must trust the issuer or endorser of the certificate and support the representation format used.
  • Accountant element: describes an entity assigned url for submitting transaction records. A designated accountant will be able to produce or verify digital signatures on an entity’s behalf. There may be a list of urls when different accountants are used for different currency units and transaction processing protocols.
  • Report element: describes the corresponding urls to a list of audited and pending reports. Child elements will include transaction period, currency unit, auditor, content-type, etc.

More details to follow in upcoming posts.