How to return a disallowed field in GraphQL

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Best Practices for GraphQL are still in a very immature stage, but these two ideas both have some merit:

First, return null for the requested field. This seems to work well in cases where there is no real harm in asking for a particular set of data and no real harm in denying it.

A good example would be asking for the email of a user where the backend only provides the user’s email to that user themselves. If I request my own user object with the email field included, I’ll get my email. If I request another user object, the email will be null, and I can code my application to be okay with that null.

Second, return an actual error. This seems to work best if the client asking for the data needs to know why it was not provided the requested data so that it can take action on that information.

A good example would be attempting to access an object that requires authentication, but no authentication was provided.

“404s” are usually returned as nulls. As per convention (like on Github’s API), unauthorized objects are sometimes returned as null as well, like in the case of asking for a user’s profile when that user has blocked the currently authenticated user. A null mimics a 404 and does not leak the fact that the hidden user exists.

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