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Identity Unlocked

Identity, Unlocked... Explained: Season 2, Ep 8

JWT Profile for OAuth 2.0 Access Tokens with Vittorio Bertocci

May 04, 2021

The Overview

In this episode of Identity, Unlocked, the CTO and co-founder of Auth0, Matias Woloski, appears as acting host and interviews Vittorio Bertocci, principal architect at Auth0 and the regular host of Identity, Unlocked, on the JWT profiles for OAuth2 access tokens specification.

This spec describes how to encode OAuth2 access tokens in use JWT format in an interoperable way, by giving a minimal list of claims, how to emit a JWT depending on specific aspects of the request, and most importantly, describes how to validate an incoming token based on very specific rules. The document also features sections on security and privacy, highlighting common pitfalls and suggesting ways to prevent and minimize issues.

Vittorio walks Matias through the creation process of this spec, beginning with recognizing that, despite encoding access tokens in JWT was common practice across the industry, there was no guidance on how to do so in any existing standard. After gathering examples of JWT access tokens issued by several different identity products and services, Vittorio presented the general idea for this new spec at the 2019 OAuth Security Workshop. After receiving interest, he proceeded to produce and propose an internet draft at IETF104.

Once the spec was adopted as an official working group item, the workgroup provided an overflow of feedback and the discussions went into much greater and productive detail. While not every interaction in the workgroup is going to be worthwhile or a game changer, Vittorio explains that the working group process is key for producing high quality, widely applicable documents that have been vetted for security and correctness by some of the best experts in the industry. The specification document has now been approved and submitted for IESG publication, one step closer to reaching the status of the official standard.

Matias and Vittorio speak further about how using this spec JWT profile tokens will make it possible to develop truly interoperable SDKs, allowing developers more time to devote on creating their apps, rather than focusing on low-level implementation differences. Vittorio also hopes this spec will stop the use of ID tokens in place of access tokens, streamline the code required to handle authorization, and help to keep privacy considerations into account when designing API solutions.

The episode closes with a call for action. The work of identity standards groups touches everyone in our industry, but not everyone is represented. Participation is easier than ever, and contributions are welcome - Vittorio encourages reaching out to him for help, extending an invitation to anyone who would like to take part in the process but don’t know where to start.

Key Takeaways

What is the JWT profile spec, in a nutshell:

How a spec evolves from an idea:

The JWT profiles for OAuth2 access tokens spec through the workgroup process:

Vittorio explains the potential advantages of this JWT spec:

Vittorio’s Call to Action:

  • Connect with Matias Woloski on LinkedIn
  • Connect with Matias Woloski on Twitter

  • Connect with Vittorio Bertocci on LinkedIn
  • Connect with Vittorio Bertocci on Twitter

Identity, Unlocked

Identity, Unlocked is the podcast that discusses identity specs and trends from a developer perspective. Identity, Unlocked is powered by Auth0. Vittorio Bertocci is Principal Architect at Auth0 and applies his vast knowledge of the identity industry to Auth0 in all aspects of the company, including internal and external education, product innovation, and customer integration.

About Auth0

Auth0 by Okta takes a modern approach to customer identity and enables organizations to provide secure access to any application, for any user. Auth0 is a highly customizable platform that is as simple as development teams want, and as flexible as they need. Safeguarding billions of login transactions each month, Auth0 delivers convenience, privacy, and security so customers can focus on innovation. For more information, visit

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