Individuals in the higher education community, by their very nature, connect to each other and share information and resources. Faculty members connect to and share research with other faculty. Students desire to access institutional computing resources in order to share information with their faculty and other students. Librarians share resource materials with other librarians. This interaction with others and sharing of information presents higher education institutions with a number of responsibilities. Who is authorized to contribute information to be shared? Who is authorized to access such information and for how long? How do the individuals or institutions involved in the sharing transaction know that those who are authorized to engage in the sharing transaction are actually the ones doing so? Further, what methods are available to individuals and institutions to perform these authorizations and authentications in a manner that maximizes the privacy of the individuals involved in the sharing transaction?
In addition to the responsibilities enumerated above, higher education institutions find themselves in an environment in which the definition of who is considered a member of an institution's community is becoming broader (e.g., related entities, alumni). Further, the information and resources expected to be provided by the institution are continuously expanded (e.g., cloud storage, financial aid services). Finally, institutions are often pressured by campus users, vendors, or other entities who want the institution to use—or facilitate the use of—external authentication systems established by the users individually (e.g., OpenID, login with Google or Facebook) when accessing institutional resources.