Data sandboxes: personalizing the data that people can see in Metabase

Pair sandboxes with user attributes to customize data for almost any situation.

Managing permissions in a multi-tenant environment

If you’re embedding Metabase for multi-tenant self-service analytics, you can use sandboxes to make sure tenant A won’t be able to see tenant B’s data, and vice versa.

Sandboxes are excellent at managing permissions for complex org structures, even if you only have one customer. For example, if your customer is a university, that university could require different permissions for different groups:

  • Admins should be able to see data from all students.
  • Students should only see their own data, but not the data of other students.
  • Professors should see the data from multiple students (the ones that they teach), but not all students.

In this scenario, you’d create separate groups for your Admins, Students, and Professors, and then assign those groups to data sandboxes. You’ll then configure each sandbox to automatically display a different set of rows or columns to each group.

Your sandbox setup will look a bit different depending on whether your tenant data is commingled into one schema or not — you can compare the options using our Multi-tenant permissions article.

If you’re ready to tinker with sandboxing yourself, try the data sandboxing examples, or have a look in the data sandboxing docs.

Restricting the email recipient list in a dashboard subscription

Some members of our community use sandboxes to lock down email addresses in Metabase. When creating a dashboard subscription, a person in a sandboxed group will only see their own email address in the list of recipients.

Say you have a group of Professors who need to send dashboard subscription emails to their respective Students. If you put the Students group in a sandbox, you’ll automatically prevent students from:

  • Sending subscription emails to their Professors.
  • Seeing the email addresses of other students.

If you only want to restrict email lists without necessarily hiding any rows or columns from a group, use a custom sandbox and set the custom sandbox’s SQL question to SELECT * FROM table.

Selectively granting access to sensitive data

If you work with sensitive information, like financial or medical data, you can use sandboxes to:

  • Let specific teams see sensitive data on a need-to-know basis.
  • Hide that sensitive data from everyone else.

For example, say you work in telemedicine, and you have a Patient Chat table that records the interactions between a nurse and a telemedicine patient in a schema like this:

Nurse ID Start Time End Time Transcript

To ensure that nurses can see the full records (including the Transcript column) for their own chats, but not the chats of other nurses:

  • Create a Nurse group with a user attribute for “Nurse ID”, and add your nurses to the group.
  • Set up a basic sandbox for the Nurse group and Patient Chat table so that nurses can only see rows that match their Nurse ID.

Then, to restrict the columns of the chat table, so that everyone else at the company can see the Nurse ID, Start Time, and End Time of a chat, but not the sensitive Transcript:

  • Create a Non-Nurse group and add non-nurse employees to the group.
  • Set up a custom sandbox for the Non-Nurse group and Patient Chat table that hides the sensitive Transcript column.

Displaying custom data formats to different groups

A lesser-known use case for sandboxes is that you can use them to format data for different groups.

For example, you can display a table’s currency in:

  • Pounds (£) for people in a United Kingdom group.
  • Yen (¥) for people in a Japan group.

Or maybe you want to display a column of datetimes in:

  • 24-hour format for people in a Military group.
  • 12-hour format for people in a Non-Military group.

You can do your custom formatting in a SQL question, then display that SQL question in a custom sandbox.

Sandboxes let you display custom URLs and hyperlink text to people in different groups. Custom URLs are especially useful when paired with a custom landing page.

For example, if you’ve created separate data onboarding guides for your Data Engineers and Product Managers groups, you can display different hyperlinks with different destinations to each group, such as:

Learn more in our Markdown tutorial: Creating a custom URL with a sandboxing attribute.

And remember, if you only need the sandbox to format data without restricting anything, use a custom sandbox and set the sandbox’s SQL question to SELECT * FROM table.

Further reading

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