PostgreSQL Anonymizer 1.0: Privacy By Design For Postgres

Posted on 2022-05-21 by Dalibo
Related Open Source

Limoges, France, May 17th, 2022

PostgreSQL Anonymizer is an extension that hides or replaces personally identifiable information (PII) or commercially sensitive data from a PostgreSQL database.

The extension supports 3 different anonymization strategies: Dynamic Masking, Static Masking and Anonymous Dumps. It also offers a large choice of Masking Functions such as Substitution, Randomization, Faking, Pseudonymization, Partial Scrambling, Shuffling, Noise Addition and Generalization.

NOTE: This release is considered ready for production

Implementing "Privacy By Design" with PostgreSQL

4 years after the introduction of the GDPR, its application remains complex for many companies and organizations. In particular, implementing the "privacy by design" principle remains a headache... How can we write the data protection rules directly during the design of an application ?

The vast majority of the current anonymization tools work outside the database, using the same approach that ETL tools. As a result, the responsibility for writing anonymization policy is usually assigned to production DBAs.

The PostgreSQL Anonymizer extension introduces a different approach as it seeks to involve developers and architects early on, during the preliminary design steps, by declaring the masking rules using SQL, directly inside the database model itself, in the same way as an integrity constraint or an index !

When a developper wants to add a new column to a table, she/he usually defines a few rules and restrictions that are enforced for this column. With PostgreSQL Anonymizer, she/he can also declare that this column contains personnal information and write a masking rule to describe how the data will be transformed during the anonymization process.

The extension offers a panel of masking techniques: randomization, noise, faking, partial destruction, pseudonymization, generalization, etc.

For Thierry Aimé who works at the Office of Architecture and Standards in the French Public Finances Directorate General (DGFiP), the extensions plays a key role in the data protection policy :

« With PostgreSQL Anonymizer we integrate, from the design of the database, the principle that outside production the data must be anonymized. Thus we can inforce the RGPD rules, without affecting the quality of the tests during version upgrades for example. »

Here's a basic example:

     id SERIAL,
     lastname TEXT,
     birth DATE,
     points INT

SECURITY LABEL FOR anon ON COLUMN player.lastname
IS 'MASKED WITH FUNCTION anon.fake_last_name()';


Alternatively, if the column can be declared as an indirect identifier, then the production DBA will be able to use a K Anonymity function to check that there's no risk of singling out an individual inside the dataset.

Data protection is a team effort ! Every person involved in the lifecycle of application should be concerned. With that mindset, the PostgreSQL Anonymizer extension provides tools for developpers and DBAs and help them to implement the data masking rules early on, thus respecting the "Privacy by Design" principle.

How to Install

This extension is officially supported on PostgreSQL 9.6 and further versions.

On Red Hat, CentOS and Rocky Linux systems, you can install it directly from the official PostgreSQL RPM repository:

dnf install postgresql_anonymizer14

Then load the extension with:

ALTER DATABASE foo SET session_preload_libraries = 'anon';

Create the extension inside the database:


And finally, initialize the extension

SELECT anon.init();

For other systems, check out the install documentation:


PostgreSQL Anonymizer was backed financially by the following entities :

  • The French Public Finances Directorate General (DGFiP)
  • BioMerieux, a world leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics

Many thanks to them for their help and feedback.

This project includes code, bugfixes, documentation, code reviews and ideas from dozens of contributors. This version 1.0 is a great occasion to show our gratitude to them!

How to contribute

PostgreSQL Anonymizer is part of the Dalibo Labs initiative. It is mainly developed by Damien Clochard.

This is an open project, contributions are welcome. We need your feedback and ideas! Let us know what you think of this tool, how it fits your needs and what features are missing.

If you want to help, you can find a list of Junior Jobs here: