[Haskell-cafe] Statically tracking "validity" - suggestions?

strejon strejony at yahoo.com
Tue Aug 31 02:24:06 EDT 2010

Hello. I'm using Haskell to write a specification for some software. The
software uses certificates (standard X.509 certificates) and stores user
name information in the Subject's CommonName field.

The X.509 standard doesn't actually require the presence of a CommonName
field so the contents of the Subject section (with the rest of the fields
omitted) are just represented by a Maybe User_Name.

> import Data.List (find, concat)
> import Data.Maybe (fromJust, isJust)
> type User_Name    = String
> type Public_Key   = Integer
> data Subject_Name = Subject_Name (Maybe User_Name) deriving (Show, Eq)
> data Certificate = Certificate {
>   certificate_subject :: Subject_Name,
>   certificate_key     :: Public_Key,
>   certificate_issuer  :: String,
>   certificate_serial  :: Integer
> } deriving (Show, Eq)

This is all well and good, but the problem is that the validity of
certificates isn't tracked statically and I have to use the following
as guards on all functions that only expect valid certificates (and
inevitably handle cases that I know can't actually happen but
have to be handled in pattern matching and the like, bloating
the specification):

> user_name :: Subject_Name -> Maybe User_Name
> user_name (Subject_Name name) = name
> is_valid :: Certificate -> Bool
> is_valid = isJust . user_name . certificate_subject

I'm aware of phantom types and the like, but I've been unable to
work out how to use them (or another type system extension)
to properly track "validity" on the type level. I'd want something

validate :: Certificate Possibly_Valid -> Maybe (Certificate Valid)

With later functions only accepting values of type "Certificate Valid".

Is there a simple way to do this?
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