Troubleshooting Looker SSO Embed URL Generation

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Powered by Looker is a neat way to share data with the world. If you’re interested in creating a proof of concept, I highly recommend checking out this post.

If you’re having issues with your embedded Looks and/or dashboards, making sure the embed URL is properly constructed is a good place to start. Creating an application to write a URL is not something we currently do, but there is some example code here.

The Steps You’ll Take

To check URL construction, I always run through these steps (more on each to later):

  1. Make sure the Look or dashboard exists on the “production” version of your instance

  2. Make sure users are authenticated with the correct permission set

  3. Make sure URL parameters are correctly formed

  4. Confirm that everything is spelled correctly

Handy Tools

To run through these checks, I find it helpful to have a couple of tools easily available:

  • A URL decoder (I use this one, for no particular reason)

  • A URL encoding reference (I use W3Schools, say what you will)

  • Looker logs (if you have access to your instance’s logs, they can provide some helpful error messages)

Check production

If a dashboard or Look does not live on the production version of your instance (outside of developer mode), then you will not be able to get this to work. If you can’t find it, on production, make sure it’s created, saved, committed, and pushed.

Check permissions

A complete walk through of Looker’s permissioning system is outside of the scope of this post, but I highly recommend this document. It’s great. If you’re looking to limit data access, this is a great resource.

Simply put, if a user doesn’t have access and permissions to see the Look, they’ll get a 404. For example, if the embedded user doesn’t have see_lookml_dashboards and the embeded dashboard is a LookML dashboard, we got problems.

Check URL parameters

The API call should produce an encoded URL that takes the form:

We’ll go over each parameter, but the basic form is an address plus key-value pairs containing some information. Decoded, an embed URL should to look like this:"something"&time=some_time_value&session_length=some_other_time_value&external_user_id="an_id"&permissions=["permission_one","permission_two","permission_three"...","permission_n-1","permission_n"]&models=["model_one","model_two","model_three"...","model_n-1","model_n"]&access_filters={"model_one":{"view_name.field_name":"value"},"model_two":{"other_view_name.other_field_name":"other_value"}}&first_name="a_first_name"&last_name="a_last_name"&force_logout_login=true_or_false&signature=some_signature

The address

This should look something like (not decoded)

  • do.main is your Looker instance’s domain

  • item_name_here is the name of your dashboard or Look. A LookML dashboard will be something like dashboards%2Fmodel_name_here%2Fdashboard_name_here and a user-defined dashboard will be something like dashboards%2Fdashboard_number_here%20F

The parameters

  • nonce is a value that identifies this request (16 character hexadecimal string). It shouldn’t be re-used (it’s a single sign-on) and should come from by a secure random number generator.

  • time is a timestamp to identify when the session begins. I don’t believe it allows for decimal values, but I could be mistaken

  • session_length is how long a user should be authenticated (in seconds). Pick something reasonable (no more than 30 days)

  • external_user_id is Looker instance user ID of the user being authenticated

  • permissionsshould be a grouping of Looker permissions. Something like this might work permissions=%5b%22see_user_dashboards%22%2c%22see_lookml_dashboards%22%2c%22access_data%22%2c%22see_looks

  • models is a group of models your user will have access to. Make sure they’re spelled correctly and in quotes. Something like this might work models=%5B%22faa%22%2C%22thelook%22%5D

  • access_filters should be the group of access_filter_fields that are applied to your instance. If you don’t use them, something like this should work access_filters%3D%7B%22faa%22%3A%7B%7D%2C%22thelook%22%3A%7B%7D%7D. If you use them, try this access_filters={"faa":{"aircraft.tail_number":"1"},"thelook":{"users.user_id":"2"}}

  • a_first_name will be the first name of your authenticated Looker user, as displayed in Looker

  • a_last_name will be the last name of your authenticated Looker user, as displayed in Looker

  • force_logout_login determines whether currently logged-in users will be logged out before authentication. I recommend setting this to true, at least for testing purposes

  • some_signature will be generated by your code. It is used by Looker to verify that the secret used to sign the request is valid and that the parameters that are present in the request are identical to those that were signed when the signature was generated.

Check spelling

If anything’s spelled incorrectly, we’ll run into trouble. Typos happen (I type dimesnion more often than I care to admit), so make sure all model names, files, etc. are spelled properly.

Other things to note

  • I’ve seen certain browsers not like %20f and only take %20F as an encoded /

  • You may want to use an encoder reference to make sure you’ve got your /s, {s, and company straight

  • Note a lack of spaces between decoded parameters

  • I don’t believe that the string to sign should have a https://

Version note

This was written and tested on Looker release 3.20.

39 replies

Userlevel 5


A+ 🍎📚

@Mahtab_Hussain I just went through this process of creating the embed code and troubleshooting it. I recommend you use one of the examples, I used the python example. Use a static time, and a static nonce value and run your code against their examples. If your code outputs the same url, you know its working. I know its a bit of a hassle but it was super useful in my troubleshooting. Once I complete my implementation I’m going to pull request it into that repo, but my implementation is in APEX.


I have been trying to implement SSO Embeding following the instructions step by step and I was getting “‘signature’ param failed to authenticate:”.

After a lot of playing around I figured out that the reason for that, was because when trying to generate the signature I was using the embed URL by its strict definition (e.g /embed/dashboards/1). However this is wrong.

What needs to be used in order to generate the signature in the above case should be the path plus the encoded embed URL (e.g /login/embed/%2Fembed%2Fdashboards%2F1)

I believe the instructions on thepage are misleading, since it’s stated that for generating the signature, the second parameter after Host should be Embed URL which is defined earlier in the page just as just the path after /login/embed/.

I hope this helpful for anyone who was confused like me.

Userlevel 5

If you are receiving authentication errors (i.e. the signature is not correct), make sure your host is stored without https://. For example, it should just be or localhost:9999.

Userlevel 5

Hey Sonny - adding hide_title=true should work in SSO embed dashboards. Feel free to visit or come on chat if you are still having issues, and we can troubleshoot it with you!

Userlevel 5

Hey @Mahtab_Hussain, glad you liked the post!

A C# pseudocode example is not on our near-term product roadmap, but we’re happy to review pull requests to the examples repo.

I also find it super helpful to check errors in your Looker instance’s logs. If you’re an administrator on a Looker-hosted instance, you should be able to view recent log entries at something like If you host your own instance, you can grab the full logs off of the machine running it.

Hope that helps!

Userlevel 5

Is it the case that you’re using the SSO embed code to create a new dashboard (a fresh one that doesn’t exist in Looker)?

Userlevel 5

@Mahtab_Hussain It sounds like this might be getting specific to your implementation. Happy to help you troubleshoot any errors you’re getting, but it might be more efficient if you visit with the problem your facing, any associated error messages and relevant log snippets. From there, we can help narrow down where things might be breaking down.

Userlevel 5

@Mahtab_Hussain I don’t believe that we have any examples of an embed app that makes use of all_dashboards() handy. If you’re running into trouble, I’d be happy to point you in the right direction. Please visit us at with information related to the specific issue you’re facing, any error messages you’re getting, and the logs associated with the SSO embed calls.

Userlevel 4

@Alexander_Kartavenko As today dashboard’s are distinct per model, and models are distinct per connection. We’re building out a feature in 4.4 called user attributes which would allow you to dictate connections per user, however I may be misunderstanding your issue, and in that case user attributes would not help.

If you’re curious if you’re able to point a dashboard to a different model in the url, that is not possible. If you’re curious about pointing a model to a different connection per user, and using that model for the dashboard, that would be possible in 4.4 (see above comment).

Happy to talk use cases if you wouldn’t mind expanding on it.

Userlevel 4

@Alexander_Kartavenko It’s not possible for user-defined dashboards, as they’re are not linked to a specific model. Looks as well are objects with saved queries to them, in which they will belong to a model.

The only options you have for adjusting models via the url are with LookML dashboards and the explore page. These options due however rely on the caveat that either the LookML dashboard or the explore path do exist in the model you’re switching to. An example of what the url would look like for a model,

@Mahtab_Hussain You can’t use a static value. This is just to test your implementation. So create the code in c#, then use static values in a python implementation and test your code to see if it outputs the same url. If it does, you know your code works and you can remove the static values.

Oh wow @Mahtab_Hussain are you building a dynamic viewer on top of looker? So your users can browse the various dashboards but not on looker?

Hi Cutler,

It’s a really help full post while troubleshoot a related issue for me.

Can you please add a sso_embed.cs (C# example code file) into GitHub under looker/looker_embed_sso_examples.


Thanks Brad,

I am sending unique nonce value every time but still getting “Single sign on failure. Please contact an administrator.” error message on Login page.

Hello @Brad and @cutler,

Thanks for assistance. 😄

I have successfully create C# implementation of embed code, your reply help me a lot.

Hi @Brad and @Cutler,

How or from where can we get the model name (in my code

for ex.- models ="[“race_results”]"😉 and accessFilters (For ex.- accessFilters =


To pass these parameter from my code for other newly created

dashboards in SSO embed code.

Please assist.

No, for existing one

Hi @cutler and @brad

I found that i can use SDK all_dashboards() looker API to get all dashboard and their associated metadata, Can you please share any code example, to show how can i use these all_dashboards() API method in my code, to get the list of all dashboards and metadata.


Yes, @brad

Hey @srivera

Thanks for help!

Actually we have already code in C# for sso embedding of various looker objects(looks, dashboard), and are using in our application.

But we are also looking to use all_dashboards() and other sdk API’s to get all available dashboard and their related metadata into our application programmatically from Looker.

If you still need some C# .net code please let me know. I’ll get it to you. In the mean time, I’ll work with Looker to publish it on github.

Looker recently added ‘hide_title’ as a query parameter but I can’t get the API to authenticate when I add this in to the url and the signature. Will ‘hide_title’ work with sso embed dashboards?

I’ve posted a .net example in github and posted a pull request to Looker. You can find my code below.

I’m currently developing a .NET C# SDK for looker. I’m very interested in the API and new features coming with the API. Let’s stay connected and make sure this train keeps rolling.