An integrator's guide to organization application policies

As we announced over on the GitHub blog, organization admins can now control how third-party applications access their organization data. Allowing admins to approve or deny applications will ultimately result in deeper trust and increase overall adoption of integrations within organizations on GitHub.

As an integrator, here's what you need to know about organization application policies and how this feature could impact your application.

Guiding principles

We've tried to strike the right balance between organization privacy and the user experience for integrators and end users. Organizations should be able to prevent applications they do not trust from accessing their organization data without creating a multitude of new edge cases for integrators.

With that goal in mind, the feature works like this: if an organization's application policy prevents an application from accessing its resources, the API behaves as if the authenticating user is not a member of the organization. Specifically, this means an application authenticating on behalf of a user using OAuth will have:

  • Read-only access to public resources. Organization-owned public repositories, issues, and other resources will be visible via the API and show up in resource listings, but mutating methods (POST, PATCH, PUT, and DELETE) will return status 403.
  • No access to private resources. Organization-owned private repositories, issues, and other resources will not be visible via the API and will not show up in resource listings that co-mingle public and private resources. Hooks for these private repositories are muted and will not be delivered as long as the application is restricted by the organization.

Since applications should already handle the scenario where a user loses access to organization resources, this reduces the work integrators need to do.

Checking organization access

As organization admins adopt application whitelists and restrict third-party application access to organization resources, your application may lose access to those resources. If an organization member is not aware of the new access policy, they may wonder why their private repositories or other resources no longer work or show up in your application.

There are a couple ways to help troubleshoot access for your end users.

  • Via the GitHub UI. The simplest way to help end users understand how organization access policies affect their access to your application is to provide a link to their authorization details under their GitHub account settings as described in the OAuth documentation.

  • Via the API. For an even better user experience, use the API to list which user organizations your application can access, and provide users with the link mentioned above to request access from their organization admins.

Listing accessible organization resources

In addition to checking access to a user's organizations, you'll want to ensure you're discovering their accessible resources in the most efficient way. Recent changes to the Repositories API might reduce the API calls your application needs to make to find a user's repositories across all of their organization memberships.

Ensuring uninterrupted SSH access

Since applications should already handle the scenario where a user loses access to organization resources (e.g., when a user leaves an organization), this reduces the work integrators need to do. Keys created by OAuth applications (or those created before GitHub started tracking that information) will not have access to repositories owned by organizations that restrict third-party applications. If your application uses keys created before February 24, 2014, you should replace those older keys to ensure things keep running smoothly for your application.

We're here to help

This is a big feature, and we're sure it will impact many of our integrators as organizations adopt third-party application restrictions. We also think it provides a huge net benefit for integrators as organizations choose to use OAuth integrations with more confidence.

If you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch.