Introduction to the Admin Database API

With the Admin SDK, you can read and write Realtime Database data with full admin privileges, or with finer-grained limited privileges. In this document, we'll guide you through adding the Firebase Admin SDK to your project for accessing the Firebase Realtime Database.

Admin SDK Setup

To get started with the Firebase Realtime Database on your server, you'll first need to set up the Firebase Admin SDK in your language of choice.

Admin SDK Authentication

Before you can access the Firebase Realtime Database from a server using the Firebase Admin SDK, you must authenticate your server with Firebase. When you authenticate a server, rather than sign in with a user account's credentials as you would in a client app, you authenticate with a service account which identifies your server to Firebase.

You can get two different levels of access when you authenticate using the Firebase Admin SDK:

Firebase Admin SDK Auth Access Levels
Administrative privileges Complete read and write access to a project's Realtime Database. Use with caution to complete administrative tasks such as data migration or restructuring that require unrestricted access to your project's resources.
Limited privileges Access to a project's Realtime Database, limited to only the resources your server needs. Use this level to complete administrative tasks that have well-defined access requirements. For example, when running a summarization job that reads data across the entire database, you can protect against accidental writes by setting a read-only security rule and then initializing the Admin SDK with privileges limited by that rule.

Authenticate with admin privileges

When you initialize the Firebase Admin SDK with the credentials for a service account with the Editor role on your Firebase project, that instance has complete read and write access to your project's Realtime Database.

Java
// Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
FileInputStream serviceAccount = new FileInputStream("path/to/serviceAccountCredentials.json");

// Initialize the app with a service account, granting admin privileges
FirebaseOptions options = new FirebaseOptions.Builder()
    .setCredential(FirebaseCredentials.fromCertificate(serviceAccount))
    .setDatabaseUrl("https://databaseName.firebaseio.com")
    .build();
FirebaseApp.initializeApp(options);

// As an admin, the app has access to read and write all data, regardless of Security Rules
DatabaseReference ref = FirebaseDatabase
    .getInstance()
    .getReference("restricted_access/secret_document");
ref.addListenerForSingleValueEvent(new ValueEventListener() {
    @Override
    public void onDataChange(DataSnapshot dataSnapshot) {
        Object document = dataSnapshot.getValue();
        System.out.println(document);
    }
});
Node.js
var admin = require("firebase-admin");

// Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
var serviceAccount = require("path/to/serviceAccountKey.json");

// Initialize the app with a service account, granting admin privileges
admin.initializeApp({
  credential: admin.credential.cert(serviceAccount),
  databaseURL: "https://databaseName.firebaseio.com"
});

// As an admin, the app has access to read and write all data, regardless of Security Rules
var db = admin.database();
var ref = db.ref("restricted_access/secret_document");
ref.once("value", function(snapshot) {
  console.log(snapshot.val());
});
Python
import firebase_admin
from firebase_admin import credentials
from firebase_admin import db

# Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
cred = credentials.Certificate('path/to/serviceAccountKey.json')

# Initialize the app with a service account, granting admin privileges
firebase_admin.initialize_app(cred, {
    'databaseURL': 'https://databaseName.firebaseio.com'
})

# As an admin, the app has access to read and write all data, regradless of Security Rules
ref = db.reference('restricted_access/secret_document')
print(ref.get())

Authenticate with limited privileges

As a best practice, a service should have access to only the resources it needs. To get more fine-grained control over the resources a Firebase app instance can access, use a unique identifier in your Security Rules to represent your service. Then set up appropriate rules which grant your service access to the resources it needs. For example:

{
  "rules": {
    "public_resource": {
      ".read": true,
      ".write": true
    },
    "some_resource": {
      ".read": "auth.uid === 'my-service-worker'",
      ".write": false
    },
    "another_resource": {
      ".read": "auth.uid === 'my-service-worker'",
      ".write": "auth.uid === 'my-service-worker'"
    }
  }
}

Then, on your server, when you initialize the Firebase app, use the databaseAuthVariableOverride option to override the auth object used by your database rules. In this custom auth object, set the uid field to the identifier you used to represent your service in your Security Rules.

Java
// Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
FileInputStream serviceAccount = new FileInputStream("path/to/serviceAccountCredentials.json");

// Initialize the app with a custom auth variable, limiting the server's access
Map<String, Object> auth = new HashMap<String, Object>();
auth.put("uid", "my-service-worker");

FirebaseOptions options = new FirebaseOptions.Builder()
    .setCredential(FirebaseCredentials.fromCertificate(serviceAccount))
    .setDatabaseUrl("https://databaseName.firebaseio.com")
    .setDatabaseAuthVariableOverride(auth)
    .build();
FirebaseApp.initializeApp(options);

// The app only has access as defined in the Security Rules
DatabaseReference ref = FirebaseDatabase
    .getInstance()
    .getReference("/some_resource");
ref.addListenerForSingleValueEvent(new ValueEventListener() {
    @Override
    public void onDataChange(DataSnapshot dataSnapshot) {
        String res = dataSnapshot.getValue();
        System.out.println(res);
    }
});
Node.js
var admin = require("firebase-admin");

// Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
var serviceAccount = require("path/to/serviceAccountKey.json");

// Initialize the app with a custom auth variable, limiting the server's access
admin.initializeApp({
  credential: admin.credential.cert(serviceAccount),
  databaseURL: "https://databaseName.firebaseio.com",
  databaseAuthVariableOverride: {
    uid: "my-service-worker"
  }
});

// The app only has access as defined in the Security Rules
var db = admin.database();
var ref = db.ref("/some_resource");
ref.once("value", function(snapshot) {
  console.log(snapshot.val());
});
Python
import firebase_admin
from firebase_admin import credentials
from firebase_admin import db

# Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
cred = credentials.Certificate('path/to/serviceAccountKey.json')

# Initialize the app with a custom auth variable, limiting the server's access
firebase_admin.initialize_app(cred, {
    'databaseURL': 'https://databaseName.firebaseio.com',
    'databaseAuthVariableOverride': {
        'uid': 'my-service-worker'
    }
})

# The app only has access as defined in the Security Rules
ref = db.reference('/some_resource')
print(ref.get())
In some cases, you may want to downscope the Admin SDKs to act as an unauthenticated client. You can do this by providing a value of null for the database auth variable override.
Java
// Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
FileInputStream serviceAccount = new FileInputStream("path/to/serviceAccountCredentials.json");

FirebaseOptions options = new FirebaseOptions.Builder()
    .setCredential(FirebaseCredentials.fromCertificate(serviceAccount))
    .setDatabaseUrl("https://databaseName.firebaseio.com")
    .setDatabaseAuthVariableOverride(null)
    .build();
FirebaseApp.initializeApp(options);

// The app only has access to public data as defined in the Security Rules
DatabaseReference ref = FirebaseDatabase
    .getInstance()
    .getReference("/public_resource");
ref.addListenerForSingleValueEvent(new ValueEventListener() {
    @Override
    public void onDataChange(DataSnapshot dataSnapshot) {
        String res = dataSnapshot.getValue();
        System.out.println(res);
    }
});
Node.js
var admin = require("firebase-admin");

// Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
var serviceAccount = require("path/to/serviceAccountKey.json");

// Initialize the app with a null auth variable, limiting the server's access
admin.initializeApp({
  credential: admin.credential.cert(serviceAccount),
  databaseURL: "https://databaseName.firebaseio.com",
  databaseAuthVariableOverride: null
});

// The app only has access to public data as defined in the Security Rules
var db = admin.database();
var ref = db.ref("/public_resource");
ref.once("value", function(snapshot) {
  console.log(snapshot.val());
});
Python
import firebase_admin
from firebase_admin import credentials
from firebase_admin import db

# Fetch the service account key JSON file contents
cred = credentials.Certificate('path/to/serviceAccountKey.json')

# Initialize the app with a None auth variable, limiting the server's access
firebase_admin.initialize_app(cred, {
    'databaseURL': 'https://databaseName.firebaseio.com',
    'databaseAuthVariableOverride': None
})

# The app only has access to public data as defined in the Security Rules
ref = db.reference('/public_resource')
print(ref.get())

Next Steps

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