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2005 Power Special Issue: Power People
TOP POWER PEOPLE STORIES

The 50 most powerful people | listed alphabetically
Microsoft’s Kim Cameron
VMware’s Diane Greene
Bank of America’s Craig Hinkley
Red Hat’s Matthew Szulik
Cisco’s Jayshee Ullal
Four power players name their heroes

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Kim Cameron: Identity's god

Chief architect of access at Microsoft has galvanized an industry behind his 'Seven Laws of Identity.'

By , Network World
December 19, 2005 05:00 PM ET

Network World - Kim Cameron isn't on a mission from God, but he once played guitar with some guys who were.

As a 20-something in the mid-1970s and the guitarist for Limbo Springs, a band he formed with friends, Cameron played at Toronto's exclusive Cheetah Club behind such luminaries as John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, a k a the Blues Brothers. While those two later starred in a same-named movie in which they proclaimed their mission was blessed by the Almighty, Cameron's future was guided by an electronic deity, the microcomputer.

//VitalStats  
 

Position: Identity architect, Microsoft
Age:
57
Years at company: 6
Years in
 industry:
 A lifetime
Major career accomplishment: Has galvanized a diverse group of often contentious technologists, vendors and academics into a meaningful discussion around digital identity.

 
  ILLUSTRATOR: ANTONY HARE  

Today, the 57-year-old Cameron, who admits to a lingering addiction to music played at ear-splitting volumes, heads all things identity at Microsoft.

In 2005, he galvanized the industry around a discussion of digital identity with his publication of "Seven Laws of Identity." Cameron has wired together a virtual who's who as part of an everyone-invited effort to define the science of identity and how to apply it to computing. The list includes his boss, Bill Gates; open source leaders, Microsoft bashers and academics, such as legal scholar Lawrence Lessig.

"To me, it is clear that all their interests must be served for progress to be made. There is so much distrust across the industry. I try to keep away from any kind of ideology and aim right at what can happen," Cameron says. Two things he learned with Limbo Springs, communication skills and the ability to dodge flying beer bottles, have helped him pull people together and deal with the instantaneous and often abrupt feedback of today's blogosphere, Cameron says.

Putting anything together, or more accurately putting anything back together, has not always been Cameron's forte. As a boy who grew up living all over Canada, following a father who was an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, Cameron was fascinated with disassembling electronics. "I had this little weirdness. I liked to invent machines. I scavenged old radios and televisions and made transmitters and things," says Cameron, whose ever-present chuckle signals that he takes himself less seriously than he does his work.

Despite hating arithmetic, Cameron graduated from King's College, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a bachelor's degree in physics and math at the age of 19. "I loved slide rules - the first computers I saw. They used to fascinate me, since I could then do physics largely without arithmetic," Cameron says.

He immediately dove into work on his master's degree in physics, gained unfettered late-night access to the school's mainframe and became one of the first teenage hackers at a time when computers were a mystery. "No one knew what I was doing, and if I told them, they ran away," he says.

But it was the late 1960s, and a love interest led Cameron from geekdom to philosophy, which landed him at the University of Paris. In 1970, he entered Montreal University, where he worked on a doctorate thesis around computer simulations of social phenomena. He also lectured at the university and two others. But mainframe access was difficult, so Cameron hooked up with Limbo Springs to recapture the teenage years lost to his studies.

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