Organizations and authorization

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 four ways:

  1. Organizations
  2. Dataset collaborators
  3. Configuration file options
  4. Extensions

The following sections explain each of the four 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 dataset searches unless the logged in user (or the user identified via an API key) has permission to access them.

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

A member can:

  • View the organization’s private datasets.

An editor can do everything a member can plus:

  • Add new datasets to the organization
  • Edit or delete any of the organization’s datasets
  • Make datasets public or private.

An organization admin can do everything as editor plus:

  • 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

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

Dataset collaborators

Changed in version 2.9: Dataset collaborators were introduced in CKAN 2.9

In addition to traditional organization-based permissions, CKAN instances can also enable the dataset collaborators feature, which allows dataset-level authorization. This provides more granular control over who can access and modify datasets that belong to an organization, or allows authorization setups not based on organizations. It works by allowing users with appropriate permissions to give permissions to other users over individual datasets, regardless of what organization they belong to.

Dataset collaborators are not enabled by default, you need to activate it by setting ckan.auth.allow_dataset_collaborators to True.

By default, only Administrators of the organization a dataset belongs to can add collaborators to a dataset. When adding them, they can choose between two roles: member and editor.

A member can:

  • View the dataset if it is private.

An editor can do everything a member can plus:

  • Make the dataset public or private.
  • Edit or delete the dataset (including assigning it to an organization)

In addition, if ckan.auth.allow_admin_collaborators is set to True, collaborators can have another role: admin.

An admin collaborator can do everything an editor can plus:

  • Add collaborators to the dataset, and choose whether to make them a member, editor or admin (if enabled)
  • Change the role of any collaborator in the dataset, including other admin users
  • Remove collaborators of any role from the dataset

If the ckan.auth.allow_admin_collaborators setting is turned off in a site where admin collaborators have already been created, existing collaborators with role admin will no longer be able to manage collaborators, but they will still be able to edit and access the datasets that they are assigned to (ie they will have the same permissions as an editor.

If the global ckan.auth.allow_dataset_collaborators setting is turned off in a site where collaborators have already been created, collaborators will no longer have permissions on the datasets they are assigned to, and normal organization-based permissions will be in place.


When turning off this setting, you must reindex all datasets to update the permission labels, in order to prevent access to private datasets to the previous collaborators.

By default, collaborators can not change the owner organization of a dataset unless they are admins or editors in both the source and destination organizations. To allow collaborators to change the owner organization even if they don’t belong to the source organization, set ckan.auth.allow_collaborators_to_change_owner_org to True.

Dataset collaborators can be used with other authorization settings to create custom authentication scenarios. For instance, on instances where datasets don’t need to belong to an organization (both ckan.auth.create_dataset_if_not_in_organization and ckan.auth.create_unowned_dataset are True), the user that originally created a dataset can also add collaborators to it (allowing admin collaborators or not depending on the ckan.auth.allow_admin_collaborators setting). Note that in this case though, if the dataset is assigned to an organization, the original creator might no longer be able to access and edit, as organization permissions take precedence over collaborators ones.

Configuration File Options

See Authorization Settings.


CKAN extensions can implement custom authorization rules by overriding the authorization functions that CKAN uses. This is done by implementing the IAuthFunctions plugin interface.

Dataset visibility is determined by permission labels stored in the search index. Implement the IPermissionLabels plugin interface then rebuild your search index to change your dataset visibility rules. There is no no need to override the package_show auth function, it will inherit these changes automatically.

To get started with writing CKAN extensions, see Extending guide.