View Source Policies

Policies determine what actions on a resource are permitted for a given actor.

You can specify an actor using the code api via the actor option, like so:, actor: current_user)



Before we jump into the guide, it is critical to understand that the policy code doesn't actually do anything in the classic sense. It simply builds up a set of policies that are stored for use later. The checker that reads those policies and authorizes requests may run all, some of, or none of your checks, depending on the details of the request being authorized.



To see what checks are built-in, see Ash.Policy.Check.BuiltInChecks




Policies are evaluated from top to bottom. Every policy that applies must pass for a given request. For example, a policy might have a condition action_type(:read) and another one might have a condition like actor_attribute_equals(:admin, true). If both apply (i.e an admin is using a read action), then both policies must pass. A policy can produce one of three results: :forbidden, :authorized, or :unknown. :unknown is treated the same as a :forbidden. A policy contains checks, which determine wether or not the policy passes for a given request.


A bypass policy is just like a policy, except if a bypass passes, then other policies after it do not need to pass. This can be useful for writing complex access rules, or for a simple rule like "an admin can do anything".


Checks, like policies, evaluate from top to bottom. A check can produce one of three results, the same that a policy can produce. While checks are not necessarily evaluated in order, they logically apply in that order, so you may as well think of it in that way. It can be thought of as a simple step-through algorithm.

For each check, starting from the top:

  • Run the check.
    • If it returns :authorized, the policy is :authorized
    • If it returns :forbidden, the policy is :forbidden
    • If it returns :unknown, the next policy down is checked

Filter checks

Some checks don't return a status, but instead return a "filter". Filter checks are applied to the query that is being run, and then the rest of the checks are run.


The Simplest Policy

Lets start with the simplest policy set:

policies do
  policy always() do
    authorize_if always()

Here, we have a single policy. The first argument to policy is the "condition". If the condition is true, then the policy applies to the request. If a given policy applies, then one of the checks inside the policy must authorize that policy. Every policy that applies to a given request must each be authorized for a request to be authorized.

Within this policy we have a single check, declared with authorize_if. Checks logically apply from top to bottom, based on their check type. In this case, we'd read the policy as "this policy always applies, and authorizes always".

There are four check types, all of which do what they sound like they do:

  • authorize_if - if the check is true, the policy is authorized.
  • authorize_unless - if the check is false, the policy is authorized.
  • forbid_if - if the check is true, the policy is forbidden.
  • forbid_unless - if the check is false, the policy is forbidden.

In each case, if the policy is not authorized or forbidden, the flow moves to the next check.


A realistic policy

In this example, we use some of the provided built in checks.

policies do
  # Anything you can use in a condition, you can use in a check, and vice-versa
  # This policy applies if the actor is a super_user
  # Additionally, this policy is declared as a `bypass`. That means that this check is allowed to fail without
  # failing the whole request, and that if this check *passes*, the entire request passes.
  bypass actor_attribute_equals(:super_user, true) do
    authorize_if always()

  # This will likely be a common occurrence. Specifically, policies that apply to all read actions
  policy action_type(:read) do
    # unless the actor is an active user, forbid their request
    forbid_unless actor_attribute_equals(:active, true)
    # if the record is marked as public, authorize the request
    authorize_if attribute(:public, true)
    # if the actor is related to the data via that data's `owner` relationship, authorize the request
    authorize_if relates_to_actor_via(:owner)


Access Type

The default access type is :filter. In most cases this will be all you need. In the example above, if a user made a request for all instances of the resource, it wouldn't actually return a forbidden error. It simply attaches the appropriate filter to fetch data that the user can see. If the actor attribute active was false, then the request would be forbidden (because there is no data for which they can pass this policy). However, if active is true, the authorizer would attach the following filter to the request:

public or owner == actor(:_primary_key)

To understand what actor(:_primary_key) means, see the Filter Templates section in Ash.Filter

To change this behavior, use access_type :strict. With access_type :strict you will force the request to fail unless a filter was provided to yield the appropriate data. In this case, any filter that is a subset of the authorization filter would work. For example: [public: true], or [owner: [id:]].

Additionally, some checks have more expensive components that can't be checked before the request is run. To enable those, use the access_type :runtime. This is still relatively experimental, but this will attempt to run as much of your checks in a strict fashion, and attach as many things as filters as possible, before running the expensive portion of the checks (defined on the check as Ash.Policy.Check.check/4)


Custom checks

See Ash.Policy.Check for more information on writing custom checks, which you will likely need at some point when the built in checks are insufficient


Policy Breakdowns



Policy breakdowns can be fetched on demand for a given forbidden error (either an Ash.Error.Forbidden that contains one ore more Ash.Error.Forbidden.Policy errors, or an Ash.Error.Forbidden.Policy error itself), via

Here is an example policy breakdown from tests:

Policy Breakdown
A check status of `?` implies that the solver did not need to determine that check.
Some checks may look like they failed when in reality there was simply no need to check them.
Look for policies with `✘` and `✓` in check statuses.

A check with a `⬇` means that it didn't determine if the policy was authorized or forbidden, and so moved on to the next check.
`🌟` and `⛔` mean that the check was responsible for producing an authorized or forbidden (respectively) status.

If no check results in a status (they all have `⬇`) then the policy is assumed to have failed. In some cases, however, the policy
may have just been ignored, as described above.

  Admins and managers can create posts | ⛔:
    authorize if: actor.admin == true | ✘ | ⬇    
    authorize if: actor.manager == true | ✘ | ⬇

To remove the help text, you can pass the help_text?: false option, which would leave you with:

Policy Breakdown
  Admins and managers can create posts | ⛔:
    authorize if: actor.admin == true | ✘ | ⬇    
    authorize if: actor.manager == true | ✘ | ⬇


Including in error message



The following configuration should only ever be used in development mode!



For security reasons, authorization errors don't include any extra information, aside from forbidden. To have authorization errors include a policy breakdown (without help text) use the following config.

config :ash, :policies, show_policy_breakdowns?: true



It is generally safe to log authorization error details, even in production. This can be very helpful when investigating certain classes of issue.

To have ash automatically log each authorization failure, use

config :ash, :policies, log_policy_breakdowns: :error # Use whatever log level you'd like to use here