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Bodyguard protects the context boundaries of your application. 💪

Authorization callbacks are implemented directly on context modules, so permissions can be checked from controllers, views, sockets, tests, and even other contexts.

The Bodyguard.Policy behaviour has a single required callback, Bodyguard.Policy.authorize/3. Additionally, the Bodyguard.Schema behaviour provides a convention for limiting query results per-user.

Quick Example

Define authorization rules directly in the context module:

# lib/my_app/blog/blog.ex
defmodule MyApp.Blog do
  @behaviour Bodyguard.Policy

  # Admins can update anything
  def authorize(:update_post, %{role: :admin} = _user, _post), do: :ok

  # Users can update their owned posts
  def authorize(:update_post, %{id: user_id} = _user, %{user_id: user_id} = _post), do: :ok

  # Otherwise, denied
  def authorize(:update_post, _user, _post), do: :error

# lib/my_app_web/controllers/post_controller.ex
defmodule MyAppWeb.PostController do
  use MyAppWeb, :controller

  def update(conn, %{"id" => id, "post" => post_params}) do
    user = conn.assigns.current_user
    post = MyApp.Blog.get_post!(id)

    with :ok <- Bodyguard.permit(MyApp.Blog, :update_post, user, post),
      {:ok, post} <- MyApp.Blog.update_post(post, post_params)
      redirect(conn, to: post_path(conn, :show, post))


To implement a policy, add @behaviour Bodyguard.Policy to a context, then define an authorize(action, user, params) callback, which must return:

  • :ok or true to permit an action
  • :error, {:error, reason}, or false to deny an action

Don't use these callbacks directly - instead, go through Bodyguard.permit/4. This will convert keyword-list params into a map, and will coerce the callback result into a strict :ok or {:error, reason} result. The default failure result is {:error, :unauthorized}.

Helpers Bodyguard.permit?/4 and Bodyguard.permit!/5 are also provided.

# lib/my_app/blog/blog.ex
defmodule MyApp.Blog do
  @behaviour Bodyguard.Policy
  alias __MODULE__

  # Admin users can do anything
  def authorize(_, %Blog.User{role: :admin}, _), do: true

  # Regular users can create posts
  def authorize(:create_post, _, _), do: true

  # Regular users can modify their own posts
  def authorize(action, %Blog.User{id: user_id}, %Blog.Post{user_id: user_id})
    when action in [:update_post, :delete_post], do: true

  # Catch-all: deny everything else
  def authorize(_, _, _), do: false

If you want to keep the policy separate from the context, define a dedicated policy module and use defdelegate:

# lib/my_app/blog/blog.ex
defmodule MyApp.Blog do
  defdelegate authorize(action, user, params), to: MyApp.Blog.Policy

# lib/my_app/blog/policy.ex
defmodule MyApp.Blog.Policy do
  @behaviour Bodyguard.Policy

  def authorize(action, user, params), do: # ...


The action_fallback controller macro is the recommended way to deal with authorization failures. The fallback controller will handle the {:error, reason} results from the main conrollers.

# lib/my_app_web/controllers/fallback_controller.ex
defmodule MyAppWeb.FallbackController do
  use MyAppWeb, :controller

  def call(conn, {:error, :unauthorized}) do
    |> put_status(:forbidden)
    |> put_view(html: MyAppWeb.ErrorHTML)
    |> render(:"403")

# lib/my_app_controllers/page_controller.ex
defmodule MyAppWeb.PageController do
  use MyAppWeb, :controller

  # This can be defined here, or in the MyAppWeb.controller/0 macro
  action_fallback MyAppWeb.FallbackController

  # ...actions here...

When Using the Plug

If the Bodyguard.Plug.Authorize plug is being used, its :fallback option must be specified, since the plug pipeline will be halted before the controller action can be called.

Returning "404 Not Found"

Typically, failures will result in {:error, :unauthorized}. If you wish to deny access without leaking the existence of a particular resource, consider returning {:error, :not_found} instead, and handle it separately in the fallback controller as a 404.

Bodyguard doesn't make any assumptions about where authorization checks are performed. You can do it before calling into the context, or within the context itself. There is a good discussion of the tradeoffs in this blog post.

See the section "Overriding action/2 for custom arguments" in the Phoenix.Controller docs for a clean way to pass in the user to each action.


This plug's config utilizes callback functions called getters, which are 1-arity functions that accept the conn and return the appropriate value.

# lib/my_app_web/controllers/post_controller.ex
defmodule MyAppWeb.PostController do
  use MyAppWeb, :controller

  # Fetch the post and put into conn assigns
  plug :get_post when action in [:show]

  # Do the check
  plug Bodyguard.Plug.Authorize,
    policy: MyApp.Blog.Policy,
    action: {Phoenix.Controller, :action_name},
    user: {MyApp.Authentication, :current_user},
    params: {__MODULE__, :extract_post},
    fallback: MyAppWeb.FallbackController

  def show(conn, _) do
    # Already assigned and authorized
    render(conn, "show.html")

  defp get_post(conn, _) do
    assign(conn, :post, MyApp.Posts.get_post!(conn.params["id"]))

  # Helper for the Authorize plug
  def extract_post(conn), do: conn.assigns.posts

See the docs for more information about configuring application-wide defaults for the plug.


Authorization checks can be performed in the mount/3 and handle_event/3 callbacks of a LiveView. See the LiveView documentation for hints and examples.

Schema Scopes

Bodyguard also provides the Bodyguard.Schema behaviour to query which items a user can access. Implement it directly on schema modules.

# lib/my_app/blog/post.ex
defmodule MyApp.Blog.Post do
  import Ecto.Query, only: [from: 2]
  @behaviour Bodyguard.Schema

  def scope(query, %MyApp.Blog.User{id: user_id}, _) do
    from ms in query, where: ms.user_id == ^user_id

To leverage scopes, the Bodyguard.scope/4 helper function (not the callback!) can infer the type of a query and automatically defer to the appropriate callback.

# lib/my_app/blog/blog.ex
defmodule MyApp.Blog do
  def list_user_posts(user) do
    |> Bodyguard.scope(user) # <-- defers to MyApp.Blog.Post.scope/3
    |> where(draft: false)
    |> Repo.all


Here is the default library config.

config :bodyguard,
  # The second element of the {:error, reason} tuple returned on auth failure
  default_error: :unauthorized


Testing is pretty straightforward – use the Bodyguard top-level API.

assert :ok == Bodyguard.permit(MyApp.Blog, :successful_action, user)
assert {:error, :unauthorized} == Bodyguard.permit(MyApp.Blog, :failing_action, user)

assert Bodyguard.permit?(MyApp.Blog, :successful_action, user)
refute Bodyguard.permit?(MyApp.Blog, :failing_action, user)

error = assert_raise Bodyguard.NotAuthorizedError, fun ->
  Bodyguard.permit(MyApp.Blog, :failing_action, user)
assert %{status: 403, message: "not authorized"} = error


  1. Add :bodyguard to your list of dependencies:

    # mix.exs
    def deps do
        {:bodyguard, "~> 2.4"}
  2. Add @behaviour Bodyguard.Policy to contexts that require authorization, and implement Bodyguard.Policy.authorize/3 callbacks.

  3. Create up a fallback controller to render an error on {:error, :unauthorized}.

Optional Installation Steps

  1. Add @behaviour Bodyguard.Schema on schemas available for user-scoping, and implement Bodyguard.Schema.scope/3 callbacks.

  2. Edit my_app_web.ex and add import Bodyguard to controllers, views, channels, etc.


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MIT License, Copyright (c) 2024 Rockwell Schrock