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Re: System users: removing them

Package: debian-policy


Background for the policy list: see thread starting at
and continuing in April at

On ma, 2011-04-04 at 21:09 +0100, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> > The current default is not to delete the user because packages don't
> > generally do so, surely ?
> I ran the attached script (same as the one I attached to my previous
> mail, to the bash thread) to unpack all amd64 sid/main binary packages,
> and then grepped for use of adduser or deluser in maintainer scripts:
>         find pool -name postinst -o -name preinst -o -name postrm -o
>         -name prerm | xargs grep adduser > adduser.list
> And the same, replacing adduser with deluser. The lists are a few tens
> of kilobytes in total, so I won't attach them to the mailing list, but
> I've put them on the web:
> http://files.liw.fi/temp/adduser.list
> http://files.liw.fi/temp/deluser.list
> There seem to be 106 maintainer scripts that mention deluser, in 103
> packages. (I did not manually verify that they're all actually calling
> deluser.)
> I think this would be a good point to have a discussion and set policy
> on how to deal with this. The policy manual seems to currently be silent
> about removing users created by the package at installation time.
>       * We can decide that packages may not remove the accounts they
>         create, ever. In that case, we should amend Policy to say this
>         explicitly, do an MBF on the packages in the deluser.list above,
>         and add a lintian warning against calling deluser in maintainer
>         scripts.

Ian and Tollef and Scott Kitterman are against removal of system users,
and nobody (except, very mildly, me) is for their removal, so I guess
the consensus on -devel is clear: we should not remove system users,
ever, in maintainer scripts. If an admin wants to do it manually, that
is, of course, OK.

Thus, I propose to change 9.2.2 "UID and GID classes", the paragraph on
uids in the range 100-999, to add the following sentence to the end of
the paragraph:

        Packages must not remove system users and groups they have

Not sure if a mass bug filing is warranted if this policy change is
accepted, but definitely a lintian check would be in order (I'm happy to
write it).

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