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let's say the current permissions are www-data:www-data and I do not want to touch that. I am not sure if the web server would like that.

On the other hand I do not want to add this new user to www-data group as I want him to have access to only some website data directories.

Is anything like that possible on linux?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, with extended ACLs. Click here for a quick article.

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that looks very good. How can I check if the current kernel supports ACL? –  Radek Sep 20 '10 at 23:41
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debianhelp.co.uk/acl.htm That should point you in the right direction. –  xeon Sep 20 '10 at 23:45
    
one more question :-) if I enable ACL support on ext3 nothing would change in terms of current permissions, doesn't it. –  Radek Sep 20 '10 at 23:47
    
Don't quote me. But enabling ACL will not effect your current permissions. I have done it in the past without issue. –  xeon Sep 20 '10 at 23:48

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