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pg_diffix 1.2.0
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pg_diffix 0.0.4 —
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A PostgreSQL extension for strong dynamic anonymization.
Diffix is a bundled set of mechanisms for anonymizing structured data. Open Diffix is a project to make Diffix anonymization free and open. More details at
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pg_diffix 1.2.0
A PostgreSQL extension for strong dynamic anonymization.


Admin Tutorial
Analyst guide


PG Diffix

pg_diffix is a PostgreSQL extension for strong dynamic anonymization. It ensures that answers to simple SQL queries are anonymous. For more information, visit the Open Diffix website.

For administrators: Check out the admin tutorial for an example on how to set up pg_diffix. See the admin guide for details on configuring and using the extension. To install from source, see the installation section.

For analysts: The banking notebook provides example queries against a real dataset. The analyst guide describes the SQL features and limitations imposed by pg_diffix.


PostgreSQL version 13 or higher is required.


You need make, jq, and a recent C compiler. You should already have the postgresql-server-dev-x package installed if you have PostgreSQL version x. If not, you must install it in order to compile the source.

The source is compiled with: make (or make TARGET=release for release version). The compiled extension is installed with: make install (which requires superuser permissions).

The extension is also available on PGXN, and can be installed using PGXN Client.


You need Visual Studio 2019 (or greater) installed with the "Desktop development with C++" option selected. You also need to set the environment variable PGROOT to point to the location of the PostgreSQL installation.

You can compile the source from inside VS, by opening the provided solution file, or from the command line, by opening a "Developer Command Prompt for VS 20XX" terminal in the project's folder and executing msbuild (to do a release build, execute msbuild -p:Configuration=Release, to clean the build files, run msbuild -t:Clean).

The compiled extension is installed by running install (for debug version) or install Release (for release version).

Activating the extension

You can set up the extension for the current database by using the command CREATE EXTENSION pg_diffix;.

To properly enforce the anonymization restrictions, the extension has to be automatically loaded on every session start for restricted users. This can be accomplished by configuring library preloading.

For example, to automatically load the pg_diffix extension for all users connecting to a database, you can execute the following command:

ALTER DATABASE db_name SET session_preload_libraries TO 'pg_diffix';

Once loaded, the extension logs information to /var/log/postgresql/postgresql-13-main.log or equivalent.

Node dumps can be formatted to readable form by using pg_node_formatter.

Deactivating the extension

You can drop the extension from the current database by using the command DROP EXTENSION pg_diffix;.

You might also need to remove the extension from the list of preloaded libraries.

For example, to reset the list of preloaded libraries for a database, you can execute the following command:

ALTER DATABASE db_name SET session_preload_libraries TO DEFAULT;

Testing the extension

make installcheck

Once you have a running server with the extension installed, execute make installcheck to run the tests. You must ensure you have all the required permissions for this to succeed, for example:

  1. In your pg_hba.conf your PostgreSQL superuser to have trust authentication METHOD. If modified, run systemctl restart postgresql.service to apply changes.
  2. Invoke using PGUSER=<postgres-superuser> make installcheck

or if available, just make your usual PostgreSQL user a SUPERUSER.

PGXN Test Tools

Or you can use the PGXN Extension Build and Test Tools Docker image:

docker run -it --rm --mount "type=bind,src=$(pwd),dst=/repo" pgxn/pgxn-tools sh -c \ 'cd /repo && apt update && apt install -y jq && pg-start 13 && pg-build-test'

Docker images

We provide 2 Docker images preconfigured with the extension.

Base image

The base image is a standard postgres image with pg_diffix installed and preloaded. It does not include any additional database or user out of the box.

The example below shows how to build the image and run a minimally configured container.

Build the image:

make image

Run the container in foreground and expose in port 10432:

docker run --rm --name pg_diffix -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=postgres -p 10432:5432 pg_diffix

From another shell you can connect to the container via psql:

psql -h localhost -p 10432 -d postgres -U postgres

For more advanced usage see the official image reference.

Demo image

The demo image extends the base image with a sample dataset and a user for each access level.

Once started, the container creates and populates the banking database. Three users are created, all of them with password demo:

  • trusted_user with anonymized access to banking in trusted mode
  • untrusted_user with anonymized access to banking in untrusted mode
  • direct_user with direct (non-anonymized) access to banking

NOTE The required file docker/demo/01-banking-data.sql is managed by Git LFS.

Build the image:

make demo-image

Run the container in foreground and expose in port 10432:

docker run --rm --name pg_diffix_demo -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=postgres -e BANKING_PASSWORD=demo -p 10432:5432 pg_diffix_demo

Connect to the banking database (from another shell) for anonymized access:

psql -h localhost -p 10432 -d banking -U trusted_user

To keep the container running you can start it in detached mode and with a restart policy:

docker run -d --name pg_diffix_demo --restart unless-stopped \ -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=postgres -e BANKING_PASSWORD=demo -p 10432:5432 pg_diffix_demo