Permissions and groups

FreeField uses a permissions tier system to assign users various permissions. Each permission tier is called a group, and each group is assigned a permission level, which is an integer between 0 and 250 describing the access level of users within that role to functionality in FreeField.


Each group can additionally be assigned a color code that is used to distinguish users of a particular group in the user list. This is described in greater detail in the Group settings section of this page.

Default groups

By default, FreeField comes with seven groups:

Group name Permission level Color
Site host 250 Green
Administrator 200 Red
Moderator 160 Purple
Pokéstop submitter 120 Turquoise
Registered member 80 < none >
Read-only member 40 < none >
Anonymous visitor 0 < none >

Members of each group are automatically granted the permissions of all groups below their permission level in addition to the permissions specific to their own group. The default groups are set up in such a way that they should be safe for production use if set up properly according to the intentions below.


If a permission that is reserved to a high-level group is desired for a lower level group, then that group should be granted that specific permission rather than be merged with a higher permission level group. Granting users access to permissions they do not need can be dangerous, and the security and availability of your site may be put at risk if you do so.

Site host

The site host is the group with highest permissions in FreeField. As the name implies, this group should be reserved only for the person who is hosting the FreeField site. Site hosts have access to settings that can be very dangerous to change, or can break FreeField if changed, such as database connection settings, authentication provider setup and site updates.


If your community has several administrators, it is strongly recommended that only the administrator responsible for hosting FreeField has this role, and that the others are assigned to the Administrator group instead. Failure to do so presents a risk that your entire FreeField installation can be hijacked by a rogue administrator, in the worst case warranting a complete reinstall of FreeField. This is explained in greated detail under The “Manage own group” permission at the end of this document.


Administrators have the second highest level of access to FreeField, and have access to most functionality needed to run and manage FreeField at a co-administrative level. Administrators have access to functionality such as site appearance settings, permissions management, security settings, Geofencing and webhooks. Only trusted community leaders should be assigned to this group, as malicious users with this level of access will be able to do significant damage to FreeField.


Moderators have the third highest level of access to FreeField. The purpose of this group is to allow privileged members of a community to manage other members’ access - i.e. they can approve and reject users awaiting approval (see Manual user approval), delete the accounts of registered users, and modify and delete any Pokéstops.

They can also change the group memberships of other users, but only for users who are below their own level of access.

Pokéstop submitter

Pokéstop submitters have the same privileges as regular members, with the notable exception that they are able to submit new Pokéstops to the map. This group should be assigned to members who wish to contribute to the completeness of the map.

Registered member

This is the default group for new members. The only privilege these members have over non-registered users is that they are able to submit field research tasks. They can also overwrite field research tasks submitted by others, but this permission can be revoked if deemed necessary by administrators.

Read-only member

Users can be assigned to this group if they have caused trouble or for some other reason have to be denied the permission to submit field research tasks. By default, this group is functionally the same as the Anonymous group in terms of permissions and access, but it has been included in case administrators would want to restrict viewing the map to members with accounts only. This way, administrators would be able to grant access to the map for a user, without also having to grant them access to submitting field research, if the map is set up to generally require an account to view the map in the first place.

Anonymous visitor

This group is the default group that all visitors, no matter where they are, are automatically assigned to. Users who have not registered for FreeField are treated as if they were members of this group. If you set any permissions to this level of access, anyone who visits your FreeField instance can perform the functions associated with that permission without having to sign in. The permission level of this group is always 0, and cannot be changed.

The only permission which is set to this group by default is “View map,” to allow anyone to view the map and any submitted research without having to authenticate.

Group settings

You can add, remove and manage groups as you wish on the “Groups” section of the administration interface. The following options are available to change for each group:

Group name

Each group has a name that is used to refer to that group elsewhere in FreeField. This name can be just a plain string, such as “Moderator,” or it can be an internationalization token which is automatically translated into the language of the user who is browsing FreeField.

All of the default groups use internationalization tokens to ensure that the names are readable in all supported languages, and not limited to one single language for everyone. An internationalization token takes the form {i18n:token_id} where the token ID is a string representing the key for a particular localizable string in the localization files. The latest localization files can be found on GitHub. The token IDs used by groups in FreeField all start with group.level..


If you want to use a custom name for a group, you should replace the entire internationalization token with the string that you wish to use. You should not add the string to your local copy of the localization files, as these are overwritten every time FreeField is updated - make the required changes on the administration pages instead.

Permission level

Each group is assigned a permission level that dictates which permissions the group has. Each group is granted all permissions at and below their permission level automatically.

Two groups cannot share the same permission level.


It is strongly recommended that you do not change the permission levels assigned to the default groups. This is because updates to FreeField that add new permissions will use the default permission levels as a reference when they are populated with defaults on your FreeField installation. E.g. if a new permission is added that is only meant to be accessible to administrators by default, the permission will be set at level 200 regardless of what value you may have chosen for the local Administrators group.


Each group can also be assigned a color. This color is displayed in other places on the administration pages, as well as in the users list, to more easily distinguish those groups from others. A group can also be assigned the default color.

To assign a color to a group, select a color from the color input box in the row that corresponds to your group. If you wish to use the default color, uncheck the checkbox next to the color box. The default color is #888888 (r=136, g=136, b=136) when using the dark color theme, and #777777 (r=119, g=119, b=119) when using the light theme.


The “Groups” section on the administration pages allows administrators to perform actions on groups. Actions can be performed on several groups at once through selecting an action for several groups in the list, which will then be applied all at once when clicking on Save settings. The available actions for groups are as follows:

Delete group
This action will, if selected, delete the group from the groups database. There are several considerations you should consider when deleting groups. See Adding and removing groups for more information.

Adding and removing groups

In addition to the default groups that are pre-installed on FreeField, it is possible to add additional groups for more granular control over individual permissions. When adding a new group, you have to enter a name for the group, a permission level, and an optional color to represent it.

The permission level should be chosen so that it falls between two other groups in FreeField. For example, if you wish to add a new group between the “Registered member” group (level 80) and “Pokéstop submitter” group (level 120), you could assign the new group permission level 100. Note that it is not possible for two groups to share the same permission level.

You can also delete groups by selecting the “Delete group” action for the group in the groups list. There are several considerations you should consider when deleting a group:

  • Users who are in the group when it is deleted will automatically be reassigned to an “Unknown” group with a permission level corresponding to the level of the deleted group.
  • Permissions which are set to the group that is being deleted will automatically change to be granted to the aforementioned “Unknown” group. This ensures that the permissions of any members in the group remain unchanged.
  • Users can be moved from the “Unknown” group to any other group, but cannot be moved from another group to the “Unknown” group.
  • Similarly, permissions which are set to the permission level of the “Unknown” group can be changed to another permission level, but cannot be changed back again.
  • If a new group is created with the same permission level as a previously deleted group, then all members who are currently in the “Unknown” group corresponding to the permission level of that group are automatically moved to the new group.
  • This also applies to permissions - any permissions which are explicitly granted to any “Unknown” group that corresponds to the level that the new group is added at, are reconfigured to be granted to the newly added group instead.
  • If you change the permission level of, or delete, a default group, then any future updates to FreeField that add additional permissions to that default group will result in those new permissions automatically being assigned to an “Unknown” group that correspnds to the default level of that group. You may want to change the group assignment of those permissions after such an update has completed.

Default group for new members

The default group for new members is “Registered member.” This can be changed on the “Permissions” section of the administration pages.


If you wish to manually approve new members before granting them access to FreeField, then this is not the setting you should change. Instead, look into Manual user approval.

Managing permissions

You can find a list of all configurable permissions in FreeField on the “Permissions” section of the administration pages. If you set a permission to a particular level, then all users who are assigned to a group with a permission level at or above the level of the selected group are granted the permission in question.

Users who have access to change permissions (i.e. users who have been granted “Manage permissions”) are only able to change permissions whose currently assigned group has a permission level lower than the one they themselves are a member of. This means that Administrators, for example, cannot change permissions which are currently granted to Administrators or the Site host. Neither can they restrict a permission that they can change to a group with a permission level that is the same as or higher than that of their own group. This means that Administrator users cannot change the assigned group of a permission that is currently granted to Pokéstop submitters, to Administrators or the Site host. They can, however, change the permission to any group ranging from Anonymous visitor through Moderator, as these are all below the permission level of the Administrator user who is making those changes.

The “Manage own group” permission

There is one permission in FreeField that warrants extra attention in the documentation - the “Manage own group” permission, which by default is only granted to the Site host.

The default behavior of FreeField when it comes to users sharing a group, is that users can only make changes to other users, groups and permissions that are below the current level of their own group. This means that members within a group cannot change each others’ details, they cannot restrict access to a permission to their own group, and they cannot assign or revoke access for members to their own group. In practice, this means that moderators cannot appoint other moderators, and administrators cannot appoint other administrators - they would have to consult with a user of a higher level group to make those changes on their own behalf.

This is a security measure. If e.g. administrators were able to manage their own group, then nothing would stop one administrator from demoting all other administrators to a lower rank, taking practically full control over FreeField and leaving the Site host to clean up the mess. Furthermore, restricting access for users to manage their own group and their group’s members reduces the attack surface for malicious users who try to seize control of an administrator account for e.g. escalating their own account to administrator level to only one account (the Site host) rather than the entire administration team.

This unfortunately has a significant practical implication - several settings in FreeField are restricted to being changeable by the Site host only by default, meaning that if the Site host could not change settings at their own level, they would not be able to change the settings despite being super-administrators on the site, a permission level whose intention is to be able to manage literally every setting in FreeField.

To remedy this, the “Manage own group” setting exists. Groups who have this permission will bypass the group self-management restrictions, so that they can make changes at their own permission level. This setting essentially raises the permission level of the groups who have the permission granted by one. This is also why the “Manage own group” setting should always remain at the Site host level and should never be granted to other users.

Members of groups with this permission granted will still not be able to change permissions or group/membership settings for any groups above their current permission level, even though they can make changes at or below their own level.

This permission is also the reason that there should only be one Site host. If you as the Site host assign another user to the Site host group, that user would have full rights to revoke your own Site host group membership, seizing full and unrestricted access to the entire FreeField installation, and eliminating your own ability to take back control. The only way to recover from such a breach would be to access the users table in the database and change the malicious user’s permission level directly. If the user manages to switch the database connection settings to another database provider first, then recovering would be even harder, likely warranting directly modifying the FreeField config.json file or even completely reinstalling FreeField.