creating a service account

Aug 22, 2022

login: gcloud auth login

show the available projects: gcloud projects list

set the current project, pick one from the list: gcloud config set project <project_id> to set

make sure the services you need are enabled: gcloud services enable [other services here...]

create a service account:

gcloud iam service-accounts create \
    bigquery-dev-user \
    --description="Service account for my app to dump data into bigquery"

Find the roles you want to give your service account. For me, I want to give the service account permissions to write and read big query data, so I used:

$ gcloud iam roles list | grep bigq
name: roles/bigquery.admin
name: roles/bigquery.connectionAdmin
name: roles/bigquery.connectionUser
name: roles/bigquery.dataEditor
name: roles/bigquery.dataOwner
name: roles/bigquery.dataViewer
name: roles/bigquery.filteredDataViewer
name: roles/bigquery.jobUser
name: roles/bigquery.metadataViewer
name: roles/bigquery.readSessionUser
name: roles/bigquery.resourceAdmin
name: roles/bigquery.resourceEditor
name: roles/bigquery.resourceViewer
name: roles/bigquery.user
name: roles/bigqueryconnection.serviceAgent
name: roles/bigquerydatapolicy.maskedReader
description: 'Gives BigQuery Data Transfer Service access to start bigquery jobs in
name: roles/bigquerydatatransfer.serviceAgent
name: roles/bigquerymigration.editor
name: roles/bigquerymigration.orchestrator
name: roles/bigquerymigration.translationUser
name: roles/bigquerymigration.viewer
name: roles/bigquerymigration.worker

And chose roles/bigquery.dataOwner as the one I'll give it. (Note that some of the roles come with descriptions - you can widen your query if you want to see those, for example with grep -A3 bigq)

Give your user the role you chose:

gcloud projects add-iam-policy-binding bigquery-dev-user \
  --member="serviceAccount:bigquery-dev-user@<project_id>" \

If you don't want to construct that member name by hand, here's an example query that might help:

gcloud iam service-accounts list \
  --format json \
  --filter="displayName:bigquery-dev-user" | \
  jq -r .[0].email

It seems to me that this should be showing an IAM policy, but isn't showing anything?

gcloud iam service-accounts get-iam-policy \
  $(gcloud iam service-accounts list \
    --format json \
    --filter="displayName:bigquery-dev-user" | \
      jq -r .[0].email)

just prints an etag, which is confusing to me. Anyway, onwards.

Generate a key for the service user

gcloud iam service-accounts keys create ./bigquery-dev-user.json \
  --iam-account=$( \
    gcloud iam service-accounts list \
      --format json \
      --filter="displayName:bigquery-dev-user" | \
        jq -r .[0].email)

This will save a key in bigquery-dev-user.json in google's JSON format.

For my purposes, I'll want to stick the key into an environment variable, so jq -c . < bigquery-dev-user.json will minimize it for me.

To test the json key, it looks like you first activate it. Before we do, let's save our user's account email in a variable to make our lives easier

export SVC_ACCOUNT=$(gcloud iam service-accounts list \
  --format json \
  --filter="displayName:bigquery-dev-user" | \
    jq -r .[0].email)

Now I can make that my active google cloud account:

gcloud auth activate-service-account $SVC_ACCOUNT \

You should see a response like Activated service account credentials for: [bigquery-dev-user@<project_id>]

And at last I can test as that user!

$ bq query 'select count(*) from publicdata:samples.shakespeare'
BigQuery error in query operation: Access Denied: Project <project_id>: User does not have permission in project <project_id>.

ok... I thought we got that with the IAM roles earlier? Logging back in as myself (with gcloud auth login, which pops the browser and does the oauth dance), I'm able to run this command to list the roles for each IAM user:

$ gcloud projects get-iam-policy <project_id>
- members:
  - serviceAccount:bigquery-dev-user@<project_id>
  role: roles/bigquery.dataOwner
- members:
  role: roles/owner
etag: BwXmigDOR6c=
version: 1

Alright, so I do have dataOwner permission, but that must not include query perms! That's fine, let's try by testing uploading a csv.

After logging back in as the service account user, I ran

# create a dataset
bq mk --dataset ds

# create a csv file
printf "a,b,c\n1,2,3" > test.csv

# try to load it
bq load --autodetect --source_format=CSV ds.deleteme ./test.csv

# BigQuery error in load operation: Access Denied: Project <project_id>: User does not have permission in project <project_id>.

OK, fine looks like we need to add more permissions than dataOwner to allow our user to upload data.

I log back in as myself, and add the bigquery.user role:

gcloud projects add-iam-policy-binding <project_id> \
  --member="serviceAccount:bigquery-dev-user@<project_id>" \

Then, once again log in as the service user, and 💥 it finally succeeds!

$ bq load --autodetect --source_format=CSV ds.deleteme ./test.csv
Upload complete.
Waiting on bqjob_r31a9f8532234badf_00000182b39ec3da_1 ... (1s) Current status: DONE

Let's clean up our test dataset

bq rm -r ds

-r tells bq to remove it recursively - otherwise it complains that the dataset isn't empty.

And that's... it! Nothing was complicated, but that sure was a lot of steps.

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