Kotlin OptIn Annotation as a Scoping Tool

I like to follow the kotlinx.coroutines library closely on GitHub. Not really because I have anything to contribute, but because there is so much to learn!

Take it’s use of the RequiresOptIn annotation (previously Experimental in Kotlin pre-1.3.70). There are some really nice ways this annotation is used, especially when introducing new library features like Flow and letting you know that parts of it are still experimental with the FlowPreview annotation.

However, the one that sticks out to me is the InternalCoroutinesApi annotation. This annotation marks APIs that have to be public but should not be used outside the library and will result in a compiler error if the using code is not marked with @OptIn(InternalCoroutinesApi::class). This is used to scope those APIs!

How else can this be used to scope access? Let’s take inspiration from using inline classes for database IDs and make an inline class to represent a password.

inline class Password(
private val value: String
) {
override fun toString(): String = "*****"

This gives us some protection when dealing with passwords, making sure you don’t pass a password to a function not expecting one. But what about the function that needs to hash the password before persisting? Or the function that needs to compare that password against an existing password hash? Some things still need access to the raw password. Enter RequiresOptIn!

@RequiresOptIn(level = RequiresOptIn.Level.ERROR)
annotation class UnsafePassword

inline class Password(
val value: String
) {
override fun toString(): String = "*****"

Now any code that tries to access value will get a compiler error unless it uses @OptIn(UnsafePassword::class)! The raw password has been scoped to only those functions that need it, and made that scope even more explicit!

fun hash(password: Password): String
= // password.value is no longer an error

Bonus, you can now search for usages of UnsafePassword to find everywhere that is dealing with a raw password.

Disclaimer: I’m not a security expert. This password example is meant to be just that, an example. Make sure you are always following best practices when dealing with sensitive information.

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