Remembering Kim Cameron

Got word yesterday that Kim Cameron had passed.

Hit me hard. Kim was a loving and loved friend. He was also a brilliant and influential thinker and technologist.

That’s Kim, above, speaking at the 2018 EIC conference in Germany. His topics were The Laws of Identity on the Blockchain and Informational Self-Determination in a Post Facebook/Cambridge Analytica Era (in the Ownership of Data track).

The laws were seven:

  1. User control and consent
  2. Minimum disclosure for a constrained use
  3. Justifiable parties
  4. Directed identity (meaning pairwise, known only to the person and the other party)
  5. Pluralism of operators
  6. Human integration
  7. Consistent experience across contexts

He wrote these in 2004, when he was still early in his tenure as Microsoft’s chief architect for identity (one of several similar titles he held at the company). Perhaps more than anyone at Microsoft—or at any big company—Kim pushed constantly toward openness, inclusivity, compatibility, cooperation, and the need for individual agency and scale. His laws, and other contributions to tech, are still only beginning to have full influence. Kim was way ahead of his time, and its a terrible shame that his own is up. He died of cancer on November 30.

But Kim was so much more—and other—than his work. He was a great musician, teacher (in French and English), thinker, epicure, traveler, father, husband, and friend. As a companion, he was always fun, as well as curious, passionate, caring, gracious. Pick a flattering adjective and it likely applies.

I am reminded of what a friend said of Amos Tversky, another genius of seemingly boundless vitality who died too soon: “Death is unrepresentative of him.”

That’s one reason it’s hard to think of Kim in the past tense, and why I resisted the urge to update Kim’s Wikipedia page earlier today. (Somebody has done that now, I see.)

We all get our closing parentheses. I’ve gone longer without closing mine than Kim did before closing his. That also makes me sad, not that I’m in a hurry. Being old means knowing you’re in the exit line, but okay with others cutting in. I just wish this time it wasn’t Kim.

Britt Blaser says life is like a loaf of bread. It’s one loaf no matter how many slices are in it. Some people get a few slices, others many. For the sake of us all, I wish Kim had more.

Here is an album of photos of Kim, going back to 2005 at Esther Dyson’s PC Forum, where we had the first gathering of what would become the Internet Identity Workshop, the 34th of which is coming up next Spring. As with many other things in the world, it wouldn’t be the same—or here at all—without Kim.

Bonus links:


  1. Christopher Carfi’s avatar

    Thanks for sharing this, Doc.

  2. Duncan Hart’s avatar

    Sad news. Thanks for taking the time to write and share.

  3. Sergio Maldonado’s avatar

    Appreciated. I did not know about Kim and now feel eager to explore his work. My condolences.

  4. John Wunderlich’s avatar

    This is sad, and he will be missed. Thanks Doc

  5. Filipe Pinto’s avatar

    His legacy is deeply embedded into the fabric of our future.

  6. JP’s avatar

    Thanks for posting this. Memories, memories. He will be missed.

  7. David Weinberger’s avatar

    Thank you, Doc. Beautifully expressed.

  8. Iain Henderson’s avatar

    Thanks Doc, lovely if sad post. Kim’s legacy will live on; his 7 laws remain spot on.

  9. Jackson Shaw’s avatar

    Thanks, Doc. So many memories. Such a legacy.

  10. Thomas Vander Wal’s avatar

    Thank you for sharing this Doc. This is sad indeed. Thoughts are with you and all who know Kim.

  11. Susan Ticknor’s avatar

    Thank you for this amazing tribute and your heartfelt sorrow…to me, Kim was my big brother. We were all so very proud of him. I love the photo album and miss him dearly.

  12. Kishen Borkhatria’s avatar

    Sad news Doc, appreciate your time writing to all of us. God bless

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