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5.7. Privileges

When an object is created, it is assigned an owner. The owner is normally the role that executed the creation statement. For most kinds of objects, the initial state is that only the owner (or a superuser) can do anything with the object. To allow other roles to use it, privileges must be granted.

There are different kinds of privileges: SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, TRUNCATE, REFERENCES, TRIGGER, CREATE, CONNECT, TEMPORARY, EXECUTE, and USAGE. The privileges applicable to a particular object vary depending on the object's type (table, function, etc). More detail about the meanings of these privileges appears below. The following sections and chapters will also show you how these privileges are used.

The right to modify or destroy an object is always the privilege of the owner only.

An object can be assigned to a new owner with an ALTER command of the appropriate kind for the object, for example

ALTER TABLE table_name OWNER TO new_owner;

Superusers can always do this; ordinary roles can only do it if they are both the current owner of the object (or a member of the owning role) and a member of the new owning role.

To assign privileges, the GRANT command is used. For example, if joe is an existing role, and accounts is an existing table, the privilege to update the table can be granted with:

GRANT UPDATE ON accounts TO joe;

Writing ALL in place of a specific privilege grants all privileges that are relevant for the object type.

The special role name PUBLIC can be used to grant a privilege to every role on the system. Also, group roles can be set up to help manage privileges when there are many users of a database — for details see Chapter 21.

To revoke a privilege, use the fittingly named REVOKE command:

REVOKE ALL ON accounts FROM PUBLIC;

The special privileges of the object owner (i.e., the right to do DROP, GRANT, REVOKE, etc.) are always implicit in being the owner, and cannot be granted or revoked. But the object owner can choose to revoke their own ordinary privileges, for example to make a table read-only for themselves as well as others.

Ordinarily, only the object's owner (or a superuser) can grant or revoke privileges on an object. However, it is possible to grant a privilege with grant option, which gives the recipient the right to grant it in turn to others. If the grant option is subsequently revoked then all who received the privilege from that recipient (directly or through a chain of grants) will lose the privilege. For details see the GRANT and REVOKE reference pages.

The available privileges are:

SELECT

Allows SELECT from any column, or specific column(s), of a table, view, materialized view, or other table-like object. Also allows use of COPY TO. This privilege is also needed to reference existing column values in UPDATE or DELETE. For sequences, this privilege also allows use of the currval function. For large objects, this privilege allows the object to be read.

INSERT

Allows INSERT of a new row into a table, view, etc. Can be granted on specific column(s), in which case only those columns may be assigned to in the INSERT command (other columns will therefore receive default values). Also allows use of COPY FROM.

UPDATE

Allows UPDATE of any column, or specific column(s), of a table, view, etc. (In practice, any nontrivial UPDATE command will require SELECT privilege as well, since it must reference table columns to determine which rows to update, and/or to compute new values for columns.) SELECT ... FOR UPDATE and SELECT ... FOR SHARE also require this privilege on at least one column, in addition to the SELECT privilege. For sequences, this privilege allows use of the nextval and setval functions. For large objects, this privilege allows writing or truncating the object.

DELETE

Allows DELETE of a row from a table, view, etc. (In practice, any nontrivial DELETE command will require SELECT privilege as well, since it must reference table columns to determine which rows to delete.)

TRUNCATE

Allows TRUNCATE on a table, view, etc.

REFERENCES

Allows creation of a foreign key constraint referencing a table, or specific column(s) of a table.

TRIGGER

Allows creation of a trigger on a table, view, etc.

CREATE

For databases, allows new schemas and publications to be created within the database.

For schemas, allows new objects to be created within the schema. To rename an existing object, you must own the object and have this privilege for the containing schema.

For tablespaces, allows tables, indexes, and temporary files to be created within the tablespace, and allows databases to be created that have the tablespace as their default tablespace. (Note that revoking this privilege will not alter the placement of existing objects.)

CONNECT

Allows the grantee to connect to the database. This privilege is checked at connection startup (in addition to checking any restrictions imposed by pg_hba.conf).

TEMPORARY

Allows temporary tables to be created while using the database.

EXECUTE

Allows calling a function or procedure, including use of any operators that are implemented on top of the function. This is the only type of privilege that is applicable to functions and procedures.

USAGE

For procedural languages, allows use of the language for the creation of functions in that language. This is the only type of privilege that is applicable to procedural languages.

For schemas, allows access to objects contained in the schema (assuming that the objects' own privilege requirements are also met). Essentially this allows the grantee to look up objects within the schema. Without this permission, it is still possible to see the object names, e.g. by querying system catalogs. Also, after revoking this permission, existing sessions might have statements that have previously performed this lookup, so this is not a completely secure way to prevent object access.

For sequences, allows use of the currval and nextval functions.

For types and domains, allows use of the type or domain in the creation of tables, functions, and other schema objects. (Note that this privilege does not control all usage of the type, such as values of the type appearing in queries. It only prevents objects from being created that depend on the type. The main purpose of this privilege is controlling which users can create dependencies on a type, which could prevent the owner from changing the type later.)

For foreign-data wrappers, allows creation of new servers using the foreign-data wrapper.

For foreign servers, allows creation of foreign tables using the server. Grantees may also create, alter, or drop their own user mappings associated with that server.

The privileges required by other commands are listed on the reference page of the respective command.

PostgreSQL grants privileges on some types of objects to PUBLIC by default when the objects are created. No privileges are granted to PUBLIC by default on tables, table columns, sequences, foreign data wrappers, foreign servers, large objects, schemas, or tablespaces. For other types of objects, the default privileges granted to PUBLIC are as follows: CONNECT and TEMPORARY (create temporary tables) privileges for databases; EXECUTE privilege for functions and procedures; and USAGE privilege for languages and data types (including domains). The object owner can, of course, REVOKE both default and expressly granted privileges. (For maximum security, issue the REVOKE in the same transaction that creates the object; then there is no window in which another user can use the object.) Also, these default privilege settings can be overridden using the ALTER DEFAULT PRIVILEGES command.

Table 5.1 shows the one-letter abbreviations that are used for these privilege types in ACL (Access Control List) values. You will see these letters in the output of the psql commands listed below, or when looking at ACL columns of system catalogs.

Table 5.1. ACL Privilege Abbreviations

Privilege Abbreviation Applicable Object Types
SELECT r (read) LARGE OBJECT, SEQUENCE, TABLE (and table-like objects), table column
INSERT a (append) TABLE, table column
UPDATE w (write) LARGE OBJECT, SEQUENCE, TABLE, table column
DELETE d TABLE
TRUNCATE D TABLE
REFERENCES x TABLE, table column
TRIGGER t TABLE
CREATE C DATABASE, SCHEMA, TABLESPACE
CONNECT c DATABASE
TEMPORARY T DATABASE
EXECUTE X FUNCTION, PROCEDURE
USAGE U DOMAIN, FOREIGN DATA WRAPPER, FOREIGN SERVER, LANGUAGE, SCHEMA, SEQUENCE, TYPE

Table 5.2 summarizes the privileges available for each type of SQL object, using the abbreviations shown above. It also shows the psql command that can be used to examine privilege settings for each object type.

Table 5.2. Summary of Access Privileges

Object Type All Privileges Default PUBLIC Privileges psql Command
DATABASE CTc Tc \l
DOMAIN U U \dD+
FUNCTION or PROCEDURE X X \df+
FOREIGN DATA WRAPPER U none \dew+
FOREIGN SERVER U none \des+
LANGUAGE U U \dL+
LARGE OBJECT rw none  
SCHEMA UC none \dn+
SEQUENCE rwU none \dp
TABLE (and table-like objects) arwdDxt none \dp
Table column arwx none \dp
TABLESPACE C none \db+
TYPE U U \dT+

The privileges that have been granted for a particular object are displayed as a list of aclitem entries, where each aclitem describes the permissions of one grantee that have been granted by a particular grantor. For example, calvin=r*w/hobbes specifies that the role calvin has the privilege SELECT (r) with grant option (*) as well as the non-grantable privilege UPDATE (w), both granted by the role hobbes. If calvin also has some privileges on the same object granted by a different grantor, those would appear as a separate aclitem entry. An empty grantee field in an aclitem stands for PUBLIC.

As an example, suppose that user miriam creates table mytable and does:

GRANT SELECT ON mytable TO PUBLIC;
GRANT SELECT, UPDATE, INSERT ON mytable TO admin;
GRANT SELECT (col1), UPDATE (col1) ON mytable TO miriam_rw;

Then psql's \dp command would show:

=> \dp mytable
                                  Access privileges
 Schema |  Name   | Type  |   Access privileges   |   Column privileges   | Policies
--------+---------+-------+-----------------------+-----------------------+----------
 public | mytable | table | miriam=arwdDxt/miriam+| col1:                +|
        |         |       | =r/miriam            +|   miriam_rw=rw/miriam |
        |         |       | admin=arw/miriam      |                       |
(1 row)

If the Access privileges column is empty for a given object, it means the object has default privileges (that is, its privileges entry in the relevant system catalog is null). Default privileges always include all privileges for the owner, and can include some privileges for PUBLIC depending on the object type, as explained above. The first GRANT or REVOKE on an object will instantiate the default privileges (producing, for example, miriam=arwdDxt/miriam) and then modify them per the specified request. Similarly, entries are shown in Column privileges only for columns with nondefault privileges. (Note: for this purpose, default privileges always means the built-in default privileges for the object's type. An object whose privileges have been affected by an ALTER DEFAULT PRIVILEGES command will always be shown with an explicit privilege entry that includes the effects of the ALTER.)

Notice that the owner's implicit grant options are not marked in the access privileges display. A * will appear only when grant options have been explicitly granted to someone.