The Laws of Identity

Kim Cameron has done some nice high-level thinking about identity protection on the Internet. His title is Chief Architect of Identity at Microsoft. He has worked at Microsoft since 1999.

His paper, The Laws of Identity (PDF), provides a glimpse into some of his thinking on the subject.

The Internet was built without a way to know who and what you are connecting to. This limits what we can do with it and exposes us to growing dangers. If we do nothing, we will face rapidly proliferating episodes of theft and deception which will cumulatively erode public trust in the Internet.

This paper is about how we can prevent that loss of trust and go forward to give Internet users a deep sense of safety, privacy and certainty about who they are relating to in cyberspace.

The Laws, in a nutshell, are the following:

  1. Technical identity systems must only reveal information identifying a user with the user’s consent.

  2. The solution which discloses the least amount of identifying information and best limits its use is the most stable long term solution.

  3. Digital identity systems must be designed so the disclosure of identifying information is limited to parties having a necessary and justifiable place in a given identity relationship.

  4. A universal identity system must support both “omni-directional” identifiers for use by public entities and “unidirectional” identifiers for use by private entities, thus facilitating discovery while preventing unnecessary release of correlation handles.

  5. A universal identity system must channel and enable the inter-working of multiple identity technologies run by multiple identity providers.

  6. The universal identity metasystem must define the human user to be a component of the distributed system integrated through unambiguous human-machine communication mechanisms offering protection against identity attacks.

  7. The unifying identity metasystem must guarantee its users a simple, consistent experience while enabling separation of contexts through multiple operators and technologies.

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