Orphaned object permissions

Note the following does not apply if using direct foreign keys, as documented in Direct foreign keys.

Permissions, including so called per object permissions, are sometimes tricky to manage. One case is how we can manage permissions that are no longer used. Normally, there should be no problems, however with some particular setup it is possible to reuse primary keys of database models which were used in the past once. We will not answer how bad such situation can be - instead we will try to cover how we can deal with this.

Let’s imagine our table has primary key to the filesystem path. We have a record with pk equal to /home/www/joe.config. User jane has read access to joe’s configuration and we store that information in database by creating guardian’s object permissions. Now, joe user removes account from our site and another user creates account with joe as username. The problem is that if we haven’t removed object permissions explicitly in the process of first joe account removal, jane still has read permissions for joe’s configuration file - but this is another user.

There is no easy way to deal with orphaned permissions as they are not foreign keyed with objects directly. Even if they would, there are some database engines - or ON DELETE rules - which restricts removal of related objects.


It is extremely important to remove UserObjectPermission and GroupObjectPermission as we delete objects for which permissions are defined.

Guardian comes with utility function which tries to help to remove orphaned object permissions. Remember - those are only helpers. Applications should remove those object permissions explicitly by itself.

Taking our previous example, our application should remove user object for joe, however, permisions for joe user assigned to jane would NOT be removed. In this case, it would be very easy to remove user/group object permissions if we connect proper action with proper signal. This could be achieved by following snippet:

from django.contrib.contenttypes.models import ContentType
from django.db.models import Q
from django.db.models.signals import pre_delete
from guardian.models import User
from guardian.models import UserObjectPermission
from guardian.models import GroupObjectPermission

def remove_obj_perms_connected_with_user(sender, instance, **kwargs):
    filters = Q(content_type=ContentType.objects.get_for_model(instance),

pre_delete.connect(remove_obj_perms_connected_with_user, sender=User)

This signal handler would remove all object permissions connected with user just before user is actually removed.

If we forgot to add such handlers, we may still remove orphaned object permissions by using clean_orphan_obj_perms command. If our application uses celery, it is also very easy to remove orphaned permissions periodically with guardian.utils.clean_orphan_obj_perms() function. We would still strongly advise to remove orphaned object permissions explicitly (i.e. at view that confirms object removal or using signals as described above).

Using multiple databases

This is not supported at present time due to a Django bug. See 288 and 16281.