Organizations and authorization

Changed in version 2.0: Previous versions of CKAN used a different authorization system.

CKAN’s authorization system controls which users are allowed to carry out which actions on the site. All actions that users can carry out on a CKAN site are controlled by the authorization system. For example, the authorization system controls who can register new user accounts, delete user accounts, or create, edit and delete datasets, groups and organizations.

Authorization in CKAN can be controlled in three ways:

  1. Organizations
  2. Configuration file options
  3. Extensions

The following sections explain each of the three methods in turn.


An organization admin in CKAN is an administrator of a particular organization within the site, with control over that organization and its members and datasets. A sysadmin is an administrator of the site itself. Sysadmins can always do everything, including adding, editing and deleting datasets, organizations and groups, regardless of the organization roles and configuration options described below.


Organizations are the primary way to control who can see, create and update datasets in CKAN. Each dataset can belong to a single organization, and each organization controls access to its datasets.

Datasets can be marked as public or private. Public datasets are visible to everyone. Private datasets can only be seen by logged-in users who are members of the dataset’s organization. Private datasets are not shown in general dataset searches but are shown in dataset searches within the organization.

When a user joins an organization, an organization admin gives them one of three roles: member, editor or admin.

An organization admin can:

  • View the organization’s private datasets
  • Add new datasets to the organization
  • Edit or delete any of the organization’s datasets
  • Make datasets public or private.
  • Add users to the organization, and choose whether to make the new user a member, editor or admin
  • Change the role of any user in the organization, including other admin users
  • Remove members, editors or other admins from the organization
  • Edit the organization itself (for example: change the organization’s title, description or image)
  • Delete the organization

An editor can:

  • View the organization’s private datasets
  • Add new datasets to the organization
  • Edit or delete any of the organization’s datasets

A member can:

  • View the organization’s private datasets.

When a user creates a new organization, they automatically become the first admin of that organization.

Configuration File Options

The following configuration file options can be used to customize CKAN’s authorization behavior:



ckan.auth.anon_create_dataset = False

Default value: False

Allow users to create datasets without registering and logging in.



ckan.auth.create_unowned_dataset = False

Default value: True

Allow the creation of datasets not owned by any organization.



ckan.auth.create_dataset_if_not_in_organization = False

Default value: True

Allow users who are not members of any organization to create datasets, default: true. create_unowned_dataset must also be True, otherwise setting create_dataset_if_not_in_organization to True is meaningless.



ckan.auth.user_create_groups = False

Default value: True

Allow users to create groups.



ckan.auth.user_create_organizations = False

Default value: True

Allow users to create organizations.



ckan.auth.user_delete_groups = False

Default value: True

Allow users to delete groups.



ckan.auth.user_delete_organizations = False

Default value: True

Allow users to delete organizations.



ckan.auth.create_user_via_api = False

Default value: False

Allow new user accounts to be created via the API.



ckan.auth.create_user_via_web = True

Default value: True

Allow new user accounts to be created via the Web.



ckan.auth.roles_that_cascade_to_sub_groups = admin editor

Default value: admin

Makes role permissions apply to all the groups down the hierarchy from the groups that the role is applied to.

e.g. a particular user has the ‘admin’ role for group ‘Department of Health’. If you set the value of this option to ‘admin’ then the user will automatically have the same admin permissions for the child groups of ‘Department of Health’ such as ‘Cancer Research’ (and its children too and so on).


CKAN extensions can implement custom authorization rules by overriding the authorization functions that CKAN uses. This is done by implementing the IAuthFunctions plugin interface. To get started with writing CKAN extensions, see Extending guide.