Project

anony

0.01
The project is in a healthy, maintained state
A small library that defines how ActiveRecord models should be anonymised for deletion purposes.
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 Dependencies

Development

~> 2.2.0
~> 2.24.0
~> 3.9
~> 1.4.1
~> 0.9.20

Runtime

>= 5.2, < 8
>= 5.2, < 8
 Project Readme

Anony

Yard Documentation Build status

Anony is a small library that defines how ActiveRecord models should be anonymised for deletion purposes.

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Anony::Anonymisable

  anonymise do
    overwrite do
      hex :first_name
    end
  end
end
irb(main):001:0> user = User.find(1)
=> #<User id="1" first_name="Alice">

irb(main):002:0> user.anonymise!
 => #<Anony::Result status="overwritten" fields=[:first_name] error=nil>

For our policy on compatibility with Ruby and Rails versions, see COMPATIBILITY.md.

Installation & configuration

This library is distributed as a Ruby gem, and we recommend adding it your Gemfile:

gem "anony"

The library injects itself using a mixin. To add this to a model class, you should include Anony::Anonymisable:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Anony::Anonymisable
  # ...
end

Alternatively, if you have a Rails application, you might wish to expose this behaviour for all of your models: in which case, you can instead add it to ApplicationRecord once:

# app/models/application_record.rb
class ApplicationRecord < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Anony::Anonymisable
end

Usage

There are two primary ways to use this library: to either overwrite existing fields on a record, or to destroy the record altogether.

First, you should establish an anonymise block in your model class:

class Employee < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Anony::Anonymisable

  anonymise do
  end
end

If you want to overwrite certain fields on the model, you should use the overwrite DSL. There are many different ways (known as "strategies") to overwrite your fields (see Field strategies below). For now, let's use the hex & nilable strategies, which overwrites fields using SecureRandom.hex or sets them to nil:

anonymise do
  overwrite do
    hex :field_name
    nilable :nullable_field
  end
end

Alternative, you may wish to simply destroy the record altogether when we call #anonymise! (this is useful if you're anonymising a collection of different models together, only some of which need to be destroyed). This can be configured liked so:

anonymise do
  destroy
end

Please note that both the overwrite and destroy strategies cannot be used simultaneously.

Now, given a model instance, we can use the #anonymise! method to apply our strategies:

irb(main):001:0> model = Model.find(1)
=> #<Model id="1" field_name="Previous value" nullable_field="Previous">

irb(main):002:0> model.anonymise!
 => #<Anony::Result status="overwritten" fields=[:field_name, :nullable_field] error=nil>

Or, if you were using the destroy strategy:

irb(main):002:0> model.anonymise!
=> #<Anony::Result status="destroyed" fields=nil error=nil>

Result object

When a model is anonymised, an Anony::Result is returned. This allows the library to detail the changes is made and the strategy it used. The result object also contains the errors that may have been raised within Anony, allowing you to handle them elegantly without using the exceptions for flow control.

The result object has 3 attributes:

  • status - If the model was destroyed, overwritten, skipped or the operation failed
  • fields - In the event the model was overwritten, the fields that were updated (excludes timestamps)
  • error - In the event the anonymisation failed, then the associated error. Note only rescues the following errors: ActiveRecord::RecordNotSaved, ActiveRecord::RecordNotDestroyed. Anything else is thrown.

For convenience, the result object can also be queried with destroyed?, overwritten?, skipped? and failed?, so that it can be directly interrogated or used in a switch case with the status property.

Field strategies

This library ships with a number of built-in strategies:

  • nilable overwrites the field with nil
  • hex overwrites the field with random hexadecimal characters
  • email overwrites the field with an email
  • phone_number overwrites the field with a dummy phone number
  • current_datetime overwrites the field with Time.zone.now (using ActiveSupport's TimeWithZone)

Custom strategies

You can override the default strategies, or add your own ones to make them available everywhere, using the Anony::FieldLevelStrategies.register(name, &block) method somewhere after your application boots (e.g. in a Rails initializer):

Anony::FieldLevelStrategies.register(:reverse) do |original|
  original.reverse
end

class Employee < ApplicationRecord
  include Anony::Anonymisable

  anonymise do
    overwrite do
      reverse :first_name
    end
  end
end

One strategy you might want to override is :email, if your application has a more specific replacement. For example, at GoCardless we use an email on the @gocardless.com domain so we can ensure any emails accidentally sent to this address would be quickly identified and fixed. :phone_number is another strategy that you might wish to replace (depending on your primary location).

You can also use strategies on a case-by-case basis, by honouring the .call(existing_value) signature:

module OverwriteUUID
  def self.call(_existing_value)
    SecureRandom.uuid
  end
end
require "overwrite_uuid"

class Manager < ApplicationRecord
  include Anony::Anonymisable

  anonymise do
    overwrite do
      with_strategy OverwriteUUID, :id
    end
  end
end

If your strategy doesn't respond to .call, then it will be used as a constant value whenever the field is anonymised.

class Manager < ApplicationRecord
  include Anony::Anonymisable

  anonymise do
    overwrite do
      with_strategy 123, :id
    end
  end
end
irb(main):001:0> manager = Manager.first
 => #<Manager id=42>

irb(main):002:0> manager.anonymise!
 => #<Anony::Result status="overwritten" fields=[:id] error=nil>

irb(main):003:0> manager
 => #<Manager id=123>

You can also use a block, which is executed in the context of the model so it can access local properties & methods. Blocks take the existing value of the column as the only argument:

class Manager < ApplicationRecord
  include Anony::Anonymisable

  anonymise do
    overwrite do
      with_strategy(:first_name) { |name| Digest::SHA2.hexdigest(name) }
      with_strategy(:last_name) { "previous-name-of-#{id}" }
    end
  end
end
irb(main):001:0> manager = Manager.first
 => #<Manager id=42>

irb(main):002:0> manager.anonymise!
=> #<Anony::Result status="overwritten" fields=[:first_name, :last_name] error=nil>

irb(main):003:0> manager
 => #<Manager first_name="e9ab2800-d4b9-4227-94a7-7f81118d8a8a" last_name="previous-name-of-42">

Identifying anonymised records

If your model has an anonymised_at column, Anony will automatically set that value when calling #anonymise! (similar to how Rails will modify the updated_at timestamp). This means you could automatically filter out anonymised records without matching on the anonymised values.

Here is an example of adding this column with new tables:

class AddEmployees < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.0]
  def change
    create_table(:employees) do |t|
      # ... the rest of your columns
      t.column :anonymised_at, :datetime, null: true
    end
  end
end

Here is an example of adding this column to an existing table:

class AddAnonymisedAtToEmployees < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.0]
  def change
    add_column(:employees, :anonymised_at, :datetime, null: true)
  end
end

Records can then be filtered out like so:

class Employees < ApplicationRecord
  scope :without_anonymised, -> { where(anonymised_at: nil) }
end

Preventing anonymisation

You might have a need to preserve model data in some (or all) circumstances. Anony exposes the skip_if DSL for expressing this preference, which runs the given block before attempting any strategy.

  • If the block returns truthy, anonymisation is skipped.
  • If the block returns falsey, anonymisation continues.
class Manager
  def should_not_be_anonymised?
    id == 1 # The first manager must be kept
  end

  anonymise do
    skip_if { should_not_be_anonymised? }
  end
end

The result object will indicate the model was skipped:

irb(main):001:0> manager = Manager.find(1)
 => #<Manager id=1>

irb(main):002:0> manager.anonymise!
=> #<Anony::Result status="skipped" fields=[] error=nil>

Incomplete field strategies

One of the goals of this library is to ensure that your field strategies are complete, i.e. that the anonymisation behaviour of the model is always correct, even when database columns are added/removed or the contents of those columns changes.

As such, Anony will validate your model configuration when you try to anonymise the model (unfortunately this cannot be safely done at boot as the database might not be available). If your configuration is incomplete, calling #anonymise! will raise a FieldsException and will not return an Anony:Result object. This is perceived to a critical error as anony cannot safely anonymise the model.

irb(main):001:0> manager = Manager.find(1)
 => #<Manager id=1>

irb(main):002:0> manager.anonymise!
Anony::FieldException (Invalid anonymisation strategy for field(s) [:username])

We recommend adding a test for each model that you anonymise (see Testing below).

Adding new columns

Anony will fail if you try to anonymise a model without specifying a strategy for all of the columns (to ensure that anonymisation rules aren't missed over time). However, it's fine to define a strategy for a column that hasn't yet been added.

This means that, in order to add a new column, you should:

  1. Define a strategy for the new column (e.g. nilable :new_column)
  2. Add the column in a database migration.

At GoCardless we do zero-downtime deploys so we would deploy the first change before then deploying the migration.

Excluding common Rails columns

Rails applications typically have an id, created_at and updated_at column on all new tables by default. To avoid anonymising these fields (and thus prevent a FieldsException), they can be globally ignored:

# config/initializers/anony.rb

Anony::Config.ignore_fields(:id, :created_at, :updated_at)

By default, Config.ignore_fields is an empty array and all fields are considered anonymisable.

Testing

This library ships with a set of useful RSpec examples for your specs. Just require them somewhere before running your spec:

require "anony/rspec_shared_examples"
# spec/models/employee_spec.rb

RSpec.describe Employee do
  # We use FactoryBot at GoCardless, but
  # however you setup a model instance is fine
  subject { FactoryBot.build(:employee) }

  # If you just anonymise fields normally
  it_behaves_like "overwritten anonymisable model"

  # Or, if your anonymised model should be skipped
  it_behaves_like "skipped anonymisable model"

  # Or, if you anonymise by destroying the record
  it_behaves_like "destroyed anonymisable model"
end

You can also override the subject inside the shared example if it helps (e.g. if you need to persist the record before anonymising it):

RSpec.describe Employee do
  it_behaves_like "anonymisable model with destruction" do
    subject { FactoryBot.create(:employee) }
  end
end

If you're not using RSpec, or want more control over the tests, Anony also exposes an instance method called #valid_anonymisation?. A simple spec would be:

RSpec.describe Employee do
  subject { described_class.new }

  it { is_expected.to be_valid_anonymisation }
end

Integration with Rubocop

At GoCardless, we use Rubocop heavily to ensure consistency in our applications. This library includes some Rubocop cops, which can be used by adding anony/cops to the require list in your .rubocop.yml:

require:
  - anony/cops

Lint/DefineDeletionStrategy

This cop ensures that all models in your application have defined an anonymise block. The output looks like this:

app/models/employee.rb:7:1: W: Lint/DefineDeletionStrategy:
  Define .anonymise for Employee, see https://github.com/gocardless/anony/blob/master/README.md for details:
  class Employee < ApplicationRecord ...
  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

If your models do not inherit from ApplicationRecord, you can specify their superclass in your .rubocop.yml:

Lint/DefineDeletionStrategy:
  ModelSuperclass: Acme::Record

License & Contributing

GoCardless ♥ open source. If you do too, come join us.