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Using OAuth 2.0 for Server to Server Applications

The Google OAuth 2.0 system supports server-to-server interactions such as those between a web application and a Google service. For this scenario you need a service account, which is an account that belongs to your application instead of to an individual end user. Your application calls Google APIs on behalf of the service account, so users aren't directly involved. This scenario is sometimes called "two-legged OAuth," or "2LO." (The related term "three-legged OAuth" refers to scenarios in which your application calls Google APIs on behalf of end users, and in which user consent is sometimes required.)

Typically, an application uses a service account when the application uses Google APIs to work with its own data rather than a user's data. For example, an application that uses Google Cloud Datastore for data persistence would use a service account to authenticate its calls to the Google Cloud Datastore API.

If you have a Google Apps domain—if you use Google Apps for Work, for example—an administrator of the Google Apps domain can authorize an application to access user data on behalf of users in the Google Apps domain. For example, an application that uses the Google Calendar API to add events to the calendars of all users in a Google Apps domain would use a service account to access the Google Calendar API on behalf of users. Authorizing a service account to access data on behalf of users in a domain is sometimes referred to as "delegating domain-wide authority" to a service account.

This document describes how an application can complete the server-to-server OAuth 2.0 flow by using either a Google APIs client library (recommended) or HTTP.

Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Creating a service account
    1. Delegating domain-wide authority to the service account
  3. Preparing to make an authorized API call
  4. Calling Google APIs

Overview

To support server-to-server interactions, first create a service account for your project in the Developers Console. If you want to access user data for users in your Google Apps domain, then delegate domain-wide access to the service account.

Then, your application prepares to make authorized API calls by using the service account's credentials to request an access token from the OAuth 2.0 auth server.

Finally, your application can use the access token to call Google APIs.

Creating a service account

A service account's credentials include a generated email address that is unique, a client ID, and at least one public/private key pair.

If your application runs on Google App Engine, a service account is set up automatically when you create your project.

If your application runs on Google Compute Engine, a service account is also set up automatically when you create your project, but you must specify the scopes that your application needs access to when you create a Google Compute Engine instance. For more information, see Preparing an instance to use service accounts.

If your application doesn't run on Google App Engine or Google Compute Engine, you must obtain these credentials in the Google Developers Console. To generate service-account credentials, or to view the public credentials that you've already generated, do the following:

  1. Go to the Google Developers Console.
  2. Select a project, or create a new one.
  3. In the sidebar on the left, expand APIs & auth. Next, click APIs. In the list of APIs, make sure all of the APIs you are using show a status of ON.
  4. In the sidebar on the left, select Credentials.
  5. To set up a new service account, do the following:

    1. Under the OAuth heading, select Create new Client ID.
    2. When prompted, select Service Account and click Create Client ID.
    3. A dialog box appears. To proceed, click Okay, got it.

    If you already have a service account, you can generate a new key by clicking the appropriate button beneath the existing service-account credentials table.

You can return to the Developers Console at any time to view the client ID, email address, and public key fingerprints, or to generate additional public/private key pairs. For more details about service account credentials in the Developers Console, see Service accounts in the Developers Console help file.

Take note of the service account's email address and store the service account's P12 private key file in a location accessible to your application. Your application needs them to make authorized API calls.

Delegating domain-wide authority to the service account

If your application accesses user data, the service account that you created needs to be granted access to the Google Apps domain’s user data that you want to access.

The following steps must be performed by an administrator of the Google Apps domain:

  1. Go to your Google Apps domain’s Admin console.
  2. Select Security from the list of controls. If you don't see Security listed, select More controls from the gray bar at the bottom of the page, then select Security from the list of controls. If you can't see the controls, make sure you're signed in as an administrator for the domain.
  3. Select Show more and then Advanced settings from the list of options.
  4. Select Manage API client access in the Authentication section.
  5. In the Client Name field enter the service account's Client ID.
  6. In the One or More API Scopes field enter the list of scopes that your application should be granted access to. For example, if your application needs domain-wide access to the Google Drive API and the Google Calendar API, enter: https://www.googleapis.com/auth/drive, https://www.googleapis.com/auth/calendar.
  7. Click Authorize.

Your application now has the authority to make API calls as users in your domain (to "impersonate" users). When you prepare to make authorized API calls, you specify the user to impersonate.

Preparing to make an authorized API call

Java

After you obtain the client email address and private key from the Developers Console, use the Google APIs Client Library for Java to create a GoogleCredential object from the service account's credentials and the scopes your application needs access to. For example:

Platform Example Code
Google App Engine
import com.google.api.client.googleapis.extensions.appengine.auth.oauth2.AppIdentityCredential;
import com.google.api.services.sqladmin.SQLAdminScopes;

// ...

AppIdentityCredential credential =
    new AppIdentityCredential(SQLAdminScopes.SQLSERVICE_ADMIN);
Google Compute Engine
import com.google.api.client.googleapis.compute.ComputeCredential;
import com.google.api.client.googleapis.javanet.GoogleNetHttpTransport;
import com.google.api.client.http.HttpTransport;
import com.google.api.client.json.JsonFactory;
import com.google.api.client.json.jackson2.JacksonFactory;

// ...

JsonFactory JSON_FACTORY = JacksonFactory.getDefaultInstance();
HttpTransport httpTransport = GoogleNetHttpTransport.newTrustedTransport();
ComputeCredential credential = new ComputeCredential.Builder()
    .setTransport(httpTransport)
    .setJsonFactory(JSON_FACTORY)
    .build();
Other
import com.google.api.client.googleapis.auth.oauth2.GoogleCredential;
import com.google.api.client.googleapis.javanet.GoogleNetHttpTransport;
import com.google.api.client.http.HttpTransport;
import com.google.api.client.json.JsonFactory;
import com.google.api.client.json.jackson2.JacksonFactory;
import com.google.api.services.sqladmin.SQLAdminScopes;

// ...

String emailAddress = "123456789000-abc123def456@developer.gserviceaccount.com";
JsonFactory JSON_FACTORY = JacksonFactory.getDefaultInstance();
HttpTransport httpTransport = GoogleNetHttpTransport.newTrustedTransport();
GoogleCredential credential = new GoogleCredential.Builder()
    .setTransport(httpTransport)
    .setJsonFactory(JSON_FACTORY)
    .setServiceAccountId(emailAddress)
    .setServiceAccountPrivateKeyFromP12File(new File("MyProject.p12"))
    .setServiceAccountScopes(Collections.singleton(SQLAdminScopes.SQLSERVICE_ADMIN))
    .build();

If you have delegated domain-wide access to the service account and you want to impersonate a user account, specify the email address of the user account with the setServiceAccountUser method of the GoogleCredential factory. For example:

GoogleCredential credential = new GoogleCredential.Builder()
    .setTransport(httpTransport)
    .setJsonFactory(JSON_FACTORY)
    .setServiceAccountId(emailAddress)
    .setServiceAccountPrivateKeyFromP12File(new File("MyProject.p12"))
    .setServiceAccountScopes(Collections.singleton(SQLAdminScopes.SQLSERVICE_ADMIN))
    .setServiceAccountUser("user@example.com")
    .build();

Use the GoogleCredential object to call Google APIs in your application.

Python

After you obtain the client email address and private key from the Developers Console, use the Google APIs Client Library for Python to complete the following steps:

  1. Create a Credentials object from the service account's credentials and the scopes your application needs access to. For example:

    Platform Example Code
    Google App Engine
    from oauth2client.appengine import AppAssertionCredentials
    
    credentials = AppAssertionCredentials(
        'https://www.googleapis.com/auth/sqlservice.admin')
    Google Compute Engine
    from oauth2client.gce import AppAssertionCredentials
    
    credentials = AppAssertionCredentials(
        'https://www.googleapis.com/auth/sqlservice.admin')
    Other
    from oauth2client.client import SignedJwtAssertionCredentials
    
    client_email = '123456789000-abc123def456@developer.gserviceaccount.com'
    with open("MyProject.p12") as f:
      private_key = f.read()
    
    credentials = SignedJwtAssertionCredentials(client_email, private_key,
        'https://www.googleapis.com/auth/sqlservice.admin')

    If you have delegated domain-wide access to the service account and you want to impersonate a user account, specify the email address of the user account in the sub parameter when you create the Credentials object. For example:

    credentials = SignedJwtAssertionCredentials(client_email, private_key,
        'https://www.googleapis.com/auth/sqlservice.admin',
        sub='user@example.org')

  2. Use the authorize method of the Credentials object to apply the necessary credential headers to all requests made by an httplib2.Http instance. For example:
    from httplib2 import Http
    
    http_auth = credentials.authorize(Http())

Use the authorized Http object to call Google APIs in your application.

HTTP/REST

After you obtain the client ID and private key from the Developers Console, your application needs to complete the following steps:

  1. Create a JSON Web Token (JWT, pronounced "jot"), which includes a header, a claim set, and a signature.
  2. Request an access token from the Google OAuth 2.0 Authorization Server.
  3. Handle the JSON response that the Authorization Server returns.

If the response includes an access token, you can use the access token to call a Google API. (If the response does not include an access token, your JWT and token request might not be properly formed, or the service account might not have permission to access the requested scopes.)

When the access token expires, your application generates another JWT, signs it, and requests another access token.

Your server application uses a JWT to
      request a token from the Google Authorization Server, then uses the token
      to call a Google API endpoint. No end user is involved.

The rest of this section describes the specifics of creating a JWT, signing the JWT, forming the access token request, and handling the response.

Creating a JWT

A JWT is composed of three parts: a header, a claim set, and a signature. The header and claim set are JSON objects. These JSON objects are serialized to UTF-8 bytes, then encoded using the Base64url encoding. This encoding provides resilience against encoding changes due to repeated encoding operations. The header, claim set, and signature are concatenated together with a period (.) character.

A JWT is composed as follows:

{Base64url encoded header}.{Base64url encoded claim set}.{Base64url encoded signature}

The base string for the signature is as follows:

{Base64url encoded header}.{Base64url encoded claim set}
Forming the JWT header

The header consists of two fields that indicate the signing algorithm and the format of the assertion. Both fields are mandatory, and each field has only one value. As additional algorithms and formats are introduced, this header will change accordingly.

Service accounts rely on the RSA SHA-256 algorithm and the JWT token format. As a result, the JSON representation of the header is as follows:

{"alg":"RS256","typ":"JWT"}

The Base64url representation of this is as follows:

eyJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9
Forming the JWT claim set

The JWT claim set contains information about the JWT, including the permissions being requested (scopes), the target of the token, the issuer, the time the token was issued, and the lifetime of the token. Most of the fields are mandatory. Like the JWT header, the JWT claim set is a JSON object and is used in the calculation of the signature.

Required claims

The required claims in the JWT claim set are shown below. They may appear in any order in the claim set.

Name Description
iss The email address of the service account.
scope A space-delimited list of the permissions that the application requests.
aud A descriptor of the intended target of the assertion. When making an access token request this value is always https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v3/token.
exp The expiration time of the assertion, specified as seconds since 00:00:00 UTC, January 1, 1970. This value has a maximum of 1 hour after the issued time.
iat The time the assertion was issued, specified as seconds since 00:00:00 UTC, January 1, 1970.

The JSON representation of the required fields in a JWT claim set is shown below:

{
  "iss":"761326798069-r5mljlln1rd4lrbhg75efgigp36m78j5@developer.gserviceaccount.com",
  "scope":"https://www.googleapis.com/auth/devstorage.readonly",
  "aud":"https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v3/token",
  "exp":1328554385,
  "iat":1328550785
}
Additional claims

In some enterprise cases, an application can request permission to act on behalf of a particular user in an organization. Permission to perform this type of impersonation must be granted before an application can impersonate a user, and is usually handled by a domain administrator. For more information on domain administration, see Managing API client access.

To obtain an access token that grants an application delegated access to a resource, include the email address of the user in the JWT claim set as the value of the sub field.

Name Description
sub The email address of the user for which the application is requesting delegated access.

If an application does not have permission to impersonate a user, the response to an access token request that includes the sub field will be an error.

An example of a JWT claim set that includes the sub field is shown below:

{
  "iss":"761326798069-r5mljlln1rd4lrbhg75efgigp36m78j5@developer.gserviceaccount.com",
  "sub":"some.user@example.com"
  "scope":"https://www.googleapis.com/auth/prediction",
  "aud":"https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v3/token",
  "exp":1328554385,
  "iat":1328550785
}
Encoding the JWT claim set

Like the JWT header, the JWT claim set should be serialized to UTF-8 and Base64url-safe encoded. Below are examples of a JSON representation and Base64url-safe representation JWT Claim set:

{
  "iss":"761326798069-r5mljlln1rd4lrbhg75efgigp36m78j5@developer.gserviceaccount.com",
  "scope":"https://www.googleapis.com/auth/prediction",
  "aud":"https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v3/token",
  "exp":1328554385,
  "iat":1328550785
}
eyJpc3MiOiI3NjEzMjY3OTgwNjktcjVtbGpsbG4xcmQ0bHJiaGc3NWVmZ2lncDM2bTc4ajVAZGV2ZWxvcGVyLmdzZXJ2aWNlYWNjb3VudC5jb20iLCJzY29wZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZWFwaXMuY29tL2F1dGgvcHJlZGljdGlvbiIsImF1ZCI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYWNjb3VudHMuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS9vL29hdXRoMi90b2tlbiIsImV4cCI6MTMyODU1NDM4NSwiaWF0IjoxMzI4NTUwNzg1fQ
Computing the signature

JSON Web Signature (JWS) is the specification that guides the mechanics of generating the signature for the JWT. The input for the signature is the byte array of the following content:

{Base64url encoded header}.{Base64url encoded claim set}

The signing algorithm in the JWT header must be used when computing the signature. The only signing algorithm supported by the Google OAuth 2.0 Authorization Server is RSA using SHA-256 hashing algorithm. This is expressed as RS256 in the alg field in the JWT header.

Sign the UTF-8 representation of the input using SHA256withRSA (also known as RSASSA-PKCS1-V1_5-SIGN with the SHA-256 hash function) with the private key obtained from the Google Developers Console. The output will be a byte array.

The signature must then be Base64url encoded. The header, claim set, and signature are concatenated together with a period (.) character. The result is the JWT. It should be the following (line breaks added for clarity):

{Base64url encoded header}.
{Base64url encoded claim set}.
{Base64url encoded signature}

Below is an example of a JWT before Base64url encoding:

{"alg":"RS256","typ":"JWT"}.
{
"iss":"761326798069-r5mljlln1rd4lrbhg75efgigp36m78j5@developer.gserviceaccount.com",
"scope":"https://www.googleapis.com/auth/prediction",
"aud":"https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v3/token",
"exp":1328554385,
"iat":1328550785
}.
[signature bytes]

Below is an example of a JWT that has been signed and is ready for transmission:

eyJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.
eyJpc3MiOiI3NjEzMjY3OTgwNjktcjVtbGpsbG4xcmQ0bHJiaGc3NWVmZ2lncDM2bTc4ajVAZGV2ZWxvcGVyLmdzZXJ2aWNlYWNjb3VudC5jb20iLCJzY29wZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZWFwaXMuY29tL2F1dGgvcHJlZGljdGlvbiIsImF1ZCI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYWNjb3VudHMuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS9vL29hdXRoMi90b2tlbiIsImV4cCI6MTMyODU1NDM4NSwiaWF0IjoxMzI4NTUwNzg1fQ.
ixOUGehweEVX_UKXv5BbbwVEdcz6AYS-6uQV6fGorGKrHf3LIJnyREw9evE-gs2bmMaQI5_UbabvI4k-mQE4kBqtmSpTzxYBL1TCd7Kv5nTZoUC1CmwmWCFqT9RE6D7XSgPUh_jF1qskLa2w0rxMSjwruNKbysgRNctZPln7cqQ

Making the access token request

After generating the signed JWT, an application can use it to request an access token. This access token request is an HTTPS POST request, and the body is URL encoded. The URL is shown below:

https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v3/token

The following parameters are required in the HTTPS POST request:

Name Description
grant_type Use the following string, URL-encoded as necessary: urn:ietf:params:oauth:grant-type:jwt-bearer
assertion The JWT, including signature.

Below is a raw dump of the HTTPS POST request used in an access token request:

POST /oauth2/v3/token HTTP/1.1
Host: www.googleapis.com
Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded

grant_type=urn%3Aietf%3Aparams%3Aoauth%3Agrant-type%3Ajwt-bearer&assertion=eyJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpc3MiOiI3NjEzMjY3OTgwNjktcjVtbGpsbG4xcmQ0bHJiaGc3NWVmZ2lncDM2bTc4ajVAZGV2ZWxvcGVyLmdzZXJ2aWNlYWNjb3VudC5jb20iLCJzY29wZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZWFwaXMuY29tL2F1dGgvcHJlZGljdGlvbiIsImF1ZCI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYWNjb3VudHMuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS9vL29hdXRoMi90b2tlbiIsImV4cCI6MTMyODU3MzM4MSwiaWF0IjoxMzI4NTY5NzgxfQ.ixOUGehweEVX_UKXv5BbbwVEdcz6AYS-6uQV6fGorGKrHf3LIJnyREw9evE-gs2bmMaQI5_UbabvI4k-mQE4kBqtmSpTzxYBL1TCd7Kv5nTZoUC1CmwmWCFqT9RE6D7XSgPUh_jF1qskLa2w0rxMSjwruNKbysgRNctZPln7cqQ

Below is the same request, using curl:

curl -d 'grant_type=urn%3Aietf%3Aparams%3Aoauth%3Agrant-type%3Ajwt-bearer&assertion=eyJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpc3MiOiI3NjEzMjY3OTgwNjktcjVtbGpsbG4xcmQ0bHJiaGc3NWVmZ2lncDM2bTc4ajVAZGV2ZWxvcGVyLmdzZXJ2aWNlYWNjb3VudC5jb20iLCJzY29wZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZWFwaXMuY29tL2F1dGgvcHJlZGljdGlvbiIsImF1ZCI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYWNjb3VudHMuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS9vL29hdXRoMi90b2tlbiIsImV4cCI6MTMyODU3MzM4MSwiaWF0IjoxMzI4NTY5NzgxfQ.RZVpzWygMLuL-n3GwjW1_yhQhrqDacyvaXkuf8HcJl8EtXYjGjMaW5oiM5cgAaIorrqgYlp4DPF_GuncFqg9uDZrx7pMmCZ_yHfxhSCXru3gbXrZvAIicNQZMFxrEEn4REVuq7DjkTMyCMGCY1dpMa8aWfTQFt3Eh7smLchaZsU
' https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v3/token

Handling the response

If the JWT and access token request are properly formed and the service account has permission to perform the operation, then the JSON response from the Authorization Server includes an access token. The following is an example response:

{
  "access_token" : "1/8xbJqaOZXSUZbHLl5EOtu1pxz3fmmetKx9W8CV4t79M",
  "token_type" : "Bearer",
  "expires_in" : 3600
}

Access tokens expire in one hour and can be reused until they expire.

Calling Google APIs

Java

Use the GoogleCredential object to call Google APIs by completing the following steps:

  1. Create a service object for the API that you want to call using the GoogleCredential object. For example:
    SQLAdmin sqladmin =
        new SQLAdmin.Builder(httpTransport, JSON_FACTORY, credential).build();
  2. Make requests to the API service using the interface provided by the service object. For example, to list the instances of Cloud SQL databases in the exciting-example-123 project:
    SQLAdmin.Instances.List instances =
        sqladmin.instances().list("exciting-example-123").execute();

Python

Use the authorized Http object to call Google APIs by completing the following steps:

  1. Build a service object for the API that you want to call. You build a a service object by calling the build function with the name and version of the API and the authorized Http object. For example, to call version 1beta3 of the Cloud SQL Administration API:
    from apiclient.discovery import build
    
    sqladmin = build('sqladmin', 'v1beta3', http=http_auth)
  2. Make requests to the API service using the interface provided by the service object. For example, to list the instances of Cloud SQL databases in the exciting-example-123 project:
    response = sqladmin.instances().list(project='exciting-example-123').execute()

HTTP/REST

After your application obtains an access token, you can use the token to make calls to a Google API on behalf of a given user account or service account. To do this, include the access token in a request to the API by including either an access_token query parameter or an Authorization: Bearer HTTP header. When possible, the HTTP header is preferable, because query strings tend to be visible in server logs. In most cases you can use a client library to set up your calls to Google APIs (for example, when calling the People API).

You can try out all the Google APIs and view their scopes at the OAuth 2.0 Playground.

Examples

A call to the people.get endpoint (the People API) using the access_token query string parameter might look like the following, though you'll need to specify your own access token:

GET https://www.googleapis.com/plus/v1/people/userId?access_token=1/fFBGRNJru1FQd44AzqT3Zg

Here is a call to the same API for the authenticated user (me) using the Authorization: Bearer HTTP header:

GET /plus/v1/people/me HTTP/1.1
Authorization: Bearer 1/fFBGRNJru1FQd44AzqT3Zg
Host: googleapis.com

You can try out with the curl command-line application. Here's an example using the HTTP header option (preferred):

curl -H "Authorization: Bearer 1/fFBGRNJru1FQd44AzqT3Zg" https://www.googleapis.com/plus/v1/people/me

Or, alternatively, the query string parameter option:

curl https://www.googleapis.com/plus/v1/people/me?access_token=1/fFBGRNJru1FQd44AzqT3Zg

When access tokens expire

Access tokens issued by the Google OAuth 2.0 Authorization Server expire one hour after they are issued. When an access token expires, then the application should generate another JWT, sign it, and request another access token.