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Python Enhancement Proposals

PEP 710 – Recording the provenance of installed packages

Fridolín Pokorný <fridolin.pokorny at>
Donald Stufft <donald at>
Paul Moore <p.f.moore at>
Discourse thread
Standards Track
03-Dec-2021, 30-Jan-2023, 14-Mar-2023, 03-Apr-2023

Table of Contents


This PEP describes a way to record the provenance of installed Python distributions. The record is created by an installer and is available to users in the form of a JSON file provenance_url.json in the .dist-info directory. The mentioned JSON file captures additional metadata to allow recording a URL to a distribution package together with the installed distribution hash. This proposal is built on top of PEP 610 following its corresponding canonical PyPA spec and complements direct_url.json with provenance_url.json for when packages are identified by a name, and optionally a version.


Installing a Python Project involves downloading a Distribution Package from a Package Index and extracting its content to an appropriate place. After the installation process is done, information about the release artifact used as well as its source is generally lost. However, there are use cases for keeping records of distributions used for installing packages and their provenance.

Python wheels can be built with different compiler flags or supporting different wheel tags. In both cases, users might get into a situation in which multiple wheels might be considered by installers (possibly from different package indexes) and immediately finding out which wheel file was actually used during the installation might be helpful. This way, developers can use information about wheels to debug issues making sure the desired wheel was actually installed. Another use case could be tools reporting software installed, such as tools reporting a SBOM (Software Bill of Materials), that might give more accurate reports. Yet another use case could be reconstruction of the Python environment by pinning each installed package to a specific distribution artifact consumed from a Python package index.


The motivation described in this PEP is an extension of that in PEP 610. In addition to recording provenance information for packages installed using a direct URL, installers should also do so for packages installed by name (and optionally version) from Python package indexes.

The idea described in this PEP originated in a tool called micropipenv that is used to install distribution packages in containerized environments (see the reported issue thoth-station/micropipenv#206). Currently, the assembled containerized application does not implicitly carry information about the provenance of installed distribution packages (unless these are installed from full URLs and recorded via direct_url.json). This requires container image suppliers to link container images with the corresponding build process, its configuration and the application source code for checking requirements files in cases when software present in containerized environments needs to be audited.

The subsequent discussion in the Discourse thread also brought up pip’s new --report option that can generate a detailed JSON report about the installation process. This option could help with the provenance problem this PEP approaches. Nevertheless, this option needs to be explicitly passed to pip to obtain the provenance information, and includes additional metadata that might not be necessary for checking the provenance (such as Python version requirements of each distribution package). Also, this option is specific to pip as of the writing of this PEP.

Note the current spec for recording installed packages defines a RECORD file that records installed files, but not the distribution artifact from which these files were obtained. Auditing installed artifacts can be performed based on matching the entries listed in the RECORD file. However, this technique requires a pre-computed database of files each artifact provides or a comparison with the actual artifact content. Both approaches are relatively expensive and time consuming operations which could be eliminated with the proposed provenance_url.json file.

Recording provenance information for installed distribution packages, both those obtained from direct URLs and by name/version from an index, can simplify auditing Python environments in general, beyond just the specific use case for containerized applications mentioned earlier. A community project pip-audit raised their possible interest in pypa/pip-audit#170.


The keywords “MUST”, “MUST NOT”, “REQUIRED”, “SHOULD”, “SHOULD NOT”, “RECOMMENDED”, “MAY”, and “OPTIONAL” in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.

The provenance_url.json file SHOULD be created in the .dist-info directory by installers when installing a Distribution Package specified by name (and optionally by Version Specifier).

This file MUST NOT be created when installing a distribution package from a requirement specifying a direct URL reference (including a VCS URL).

Only one of the files provenance_url.json and direct_url.json (from PEP 610), may be present in a given .dist-info directory; installers MUST NOT add both.

The provenance_url.json JSON file MUST be a dictionary, compliant with RFC 8259 and UTF-8 encoded.

If present, it MUST contain exactly two keys. The first one is url, with type string. The second key MUST be archive_info with a value defined below.

The value of the url key MUST be the URL from which the distribution package was downloaded. If a wheel is built from a source distribution, the url value MUST be the URL from which the source distribution was downloaded. If a wheel is downloaded and installed directly, the url field MUST be the URL from which the wheel was downloaded. As in the direct URL origin specification, the url value MUST be stripped of any sensitive authentication information for security reasons.

The user:password section of the URL MAY however be composed of environment variables, matching the following regular expression:


Additionally, the user:password section of the URL MAY be a well-known, non-security sensitive string. A typical example is git in the case of an URL such as ssh://

The value of archive_info MUST be a dictionary with a single key hashes. The value of hashes is a dictionary mapping hash function names to a hex-encoded digest of the file referenced by the url value. Multiple hashes can be included, and it is up to the consumer to decide what to do with multiple hashes (it may validate all of them or a subset of them, or nothing at all).

Each hash MUST be one of the single argument hashes provided by hashlib.algorithms_guaranteed, excluding sha1 and md5 which MUST NOT be used. As of Python 3.11, with shake_128 and shake_256 excluded for being multi-argument, the allowed set of hashes is:

>>> import hashlib
>>> sorted(hashlib.algorithms_guaranteed - {"shake_128", "shake_256", "sha1", "md5"})
['blake2b', 'blake2s', 'sha224', 'sha256', 'sha384', 'sha3_224', 'sha3_256', 'sha3_384', 'sha3_512', 'sha512']

Each hash MUST be referenced by the canonical name of the hash, always lower case.

Hashes sha1 and md5 MUST NOT be present, due to the security limitations of these hash algorithms. Conversely, hash sha256 SHOULD be included.

Installers that cache distribution packages from an index SHOULD keep information related to the cached distribution artifact, so that the provenance_url.json file can be created even when installing distribution packages from the installer’s cache.

Backwards Compatibility

Following the Recording installed projects specification, installers may keep additional installer-specific files in the .dist-info directory. To make sure this PEP does not cause any backwards compatibility issues, a comprehensive survey of installers and libraries found no current tools that are using a similarly-named file, or other major feasibility concerns.

The Wheel specification lists files that can be present in the .dist-info directory. None of these file names collide with the proposed provenance_url.json file from this PEP.

Presence of provenance_url.json in installers and libraries

A comprehensive survey of the existing installers, libraries, and dependency managers in the Python ecosystem analyzed the implications of adding support for provenance_url.json to each tool. In summary, no major backwards compatibility issues, conflicts or feasibility blockers were found as of the time of writing of this PEP. More details about the survey can be found in the Appendix: Survey of installers and libraries section.

Compatibility with direct_url.json

This proposal does not make any changes to the direct_url.json file described in PEP 610 and its corresponding canonical PyPA spec.

The content of provenance_url.json file was designed in a way to eventually allow installers reuse some of the logic supporting direct_url.json when a direct URL refers to a source archive or a wheel.

The main difference between the provenance_url.json and direct_url.json files are the mandatory keys and their values in the provenance_url.json file. This helps make sure consumers of the provenance_url.json file can rely on its content, if the file is present in the .dist-info directory.

Security Implications

One of the main security features of the provenance_url.json file is the ability to audit installed artifacts in Python environments. Tools can check which Python package indexes were used to install Python distribution packages as well as the hash digests of their release artifacts.

As an example, we can take the recent compromised dependency chain in the PyTorch incident. The PyTorch index provided a package named torchtriton. An attacker published torchtriton on PyPI, which ran a malicious binary. By checking the URL of the installed Python distribution stated in the provenance_url.json file, tools can automatically check the source of the installed Python distribution. In case of the PyTorch incident, the URL of torchtriton should point to the PyTorch index, not PyPI. Tools can help identifying such malicious Python distributions installed by checking the installed Python distribution URL. A more exact check can include also the hash of the installed Python distribution stated in the provenance_url.json file. Such checks on hashes can be helpful for mirrored Python package indexes where Python distributions are not distinguishable by their source URLs, making sure only desired Python package distributions are installed.

A malicious actor can intentionally adjust the content of provenance_url.json to possibly hide provenance information of the installed Python distribution. A security check which would uncover such malicious activity is beyond scope of this PEP as it would require monitoring actions on the filesystem and eventually reviewing user or file permissions.

How to Teach This

The provenance_url.json metadata file is intended for tools and is not directly visible to end users.


Examples of a valid provenance_url.json

A valid provenance_url.json list multiple hashes:

  "archive_info": {
    "hashes": {
      "blake2s": "fffeaf3d0bd71dc960ca2113af890a2f2198f2466f8cd58ce4b77c1fc54601ff",
      "sha256": "236bcb61156d76c4b8a05821b988c7b8c35bf0da28a4b614e8d6ab5212c25c6f",
      "sha3_256": "c856930e0f707266d30e5b48c667a843d45e79bb30473c464e92dfa158285eab",
      "sha512": "6bad5536c30a0b2d5905318a1592948929fbac9baf3bcf2e7faeaf90f445f82bc2b656d0a89070d8a6a9395761f4793c83187bd640c64b2656a112b5be41f73d"
  "url": ""

A valid provenance_url.json listing a single hash entry:

  "archive_info": {
    "hashes": {
      "sha256": "236bcb61156d76c4b8a05821b988c7b8c35bf0da28a4b614e8d6ab5212c25c6f"
  "url": ""

A valid provenance_url.json listing a source distribution which was used to build and install a wheel:

  "archive_info": {
    "hashes": {
      "sha256": "8bfe29f17c10e2f2e619de8033a07a224058d96b3bfe2ed61777596f7ffd7fa9"
  "url": ""

Examples of an invalid provenance_url.json

The following example includes a hash key in the archive_info dictionary as originally designed in PEP 610 and the data structure documented in Recording the Direct URL Origin of installed distributions. The hash key MUST NOT be present to prevent from any possible confusion with hashes and additional checks that would be required to keep hash values in sync.

  "archive_info": {
    "hash": "sha256=236bcb61156d76c4b8a05821b988c7b8c35bf0da28a4b614e8d6ab5212c25c6f",
    "hashes": {
      "sha256": "236bcb61156d76c4b8a05821b988c7b8c35bf0da28a4b614e8d6ab5212c25c6f"
  "url": ""

Another example demonstrates an invalid hash name. The referenced hash name does not correspond to the canonical hash names described in this PEP and in the Python docs under

  "archive_info": {
    "hashes": {
      "SHA-256": "236bcb61156d76c4b8a05821b988c7b8c35bf0da28a4b614e8d6ab5212c25c6f"
  "url": ""

Example pip commands and their effect on provenance_url.json and direct_url.json

These commands generate a direct_url.json file but do not generate a provenance_url.json file. These examples follow examples from PEP 610:

  • pip install
  • pip install
  • pip install "git+"
  • pip install ./app
  • pip install file:///home/user/app
  • pip install --editable "git+" (in which case, url will be the local directory where the git repository has been cloned to, and dir_info will be present with "editable": true and no vcs_info will be set)
  • pip install -e ./app

Commands that generate a provenance_url.json file but do not generate a direct_url.json file:

  • pip install app
  • pip install app~=2.2.0
  • pip install app --no-index --find-links ""

This behaviour can be tested using changes to pip implemented in the PR pypa/pip#11865.

Reference Implementation

A proof-of-concept for creating the provenance_url.json metadata file when installing a Python Distribution Package is available in the PR to pip pypa/pip#11865. It reuses the already available implementation for the direct URL data structure to provide the provenance_url.json metadata file for cases when direct_url.json is not created.

A prototype called pip-preserve was developed to demonstrate creation of requirements.txt files considering direct_url.json and provenance_url.json metadata files. This tool mimics the pip freeze functionality, but the listing of installed packages also includes the hashes of the Python distribution artifacts.

Rejected Ideas

Naming the file direct_url.json instead of provenance_url.json

To preserve backwards compatibility with the Direct URL Origin specification, the file cannot be named direct_url.json, as per the text of that specification:

This file MUST NOT be created when installing a distribution from an other type of requirement (i.e. name plus version specifier).

Such a change might introduce backwards compatibility issues for consumers of direct_url.json who rely on its presence only when distributions are installed using a direct URL reference.

Deprecating direct_url.json and using only provenance_url.json

File direct_url.json is already well established with PEP 610 being accepted and is already used by installers. For example, pip uses direct_url.json to report a direct URL reference on pip freeze. Deprecating direct_url.json would require additional changes to the pip freeze implementation in pip (see PR fridex/pip#2) and could introduce backwards compatibility issues for already existing direct_url.json consumers.

Keeping the hash key in the archive_info dictionary

PEP 610 and its corresponding canonical PyPA spec discuss the possibility to include the hash key alongside the hashes key in the archive_info dictionary. This PEP explicitly does not include the hash key in the provenance_url.json file and allows only the hashes key to be present. By doing so we eliminate possible redundancy in the file, possible confusion, and any additional checks that would need to be done to make sure the hashes are in sync.

Making the hashes key optional

PEP 610 and its corresponding canonical PyPA spec recommend including the hashes key of the archive_info in the direct_url.json file but it is not required (per the RFC 2119 language):

A hashes key SHOULD be present as a dictionary mapping a hash name to a hex encoded digest of the file.

This PEP requires the hashes key be included in archive_info in the provenance_url.json file if that file is created; per this PEP:

The value of archive_info MUST be a dictionary with a single key hashes.

By doing so, consumers of provenance_url.json can check artifact digests when the provenance_url.json file is created by installers.

Open Issues

Availability of the provenance_url.json file in Conda

We would like to get feedback on the provenance_url.json file from the Conda maintainers. It is not clear whether Conda would like to adopt the provenance_url.json file. Conda already stores provenance related information (similar to the provenance information proposed in this PEP) in JSON files located in the conda-meta directory following its actions during installation.

Using provenance_url.json in downstream installers

The proposed provenance_url.json file was meant to be adopted primarily by Python installers. Other installers, such as APT or DNF, might record the provenance of the installed downstream Python distributions in their own way specific to downstream package management. The proposed file is not expected to be created by these downstream package installers and thus they were intentionally left out of this PEP. However, any input by developers or maintainers of these installers is valuable to possibly enrich the provenance_url.json file with information that would help in some way.

Appendix: Survey of installers and libraries


The function from pip’s internal API responsible for installing wheels, named _install_wheel, does not store any provenance_url.json file in the .dist-info directory. Additionally, a prototype introducing the mentioned file to pip in pypa/pip#11865 demonstrates incorporating logic for handling the provenance_url.json file in pip’s source code.

As pip is used by some of the tools mentioned below to install Python package distributions, findings for pip apply to these tools, as well as pip does not allow parametrizing creation of files in the .dist-info directory in its internal API. Most of the tools mentioned below that use pip invoke pip as a subprocess which has no effect on the eventual presence of the provenance_url.json file in the .dist-info directory.


distlib implements low-level functionality to manipulate the dist-info directory. The database of installed distributions does not use any file named provenance_url.json, based on the distlib’s source code.


Pipenv uses pip to install Python package distributions. There wasn’t any additional identified logic that would cause backwards compatibility issues when introducing the provenance_url.json file in the .dist-info directory.


installer does not create a provenance_url.json file explicitly. Nevertheless, as per the Recording Installed Projects specification, installer allows passing the additional_metadata argument to create a file in the .dist-info directory - see the source code. To avoid any backwards compatibility issues, any library or tool using installer must not request creating the provenance_url.json file using the mentioned additional_metadata argument.


The installation logic in Poetry depends on the installer.modern-installer configuration option (see docs).

For cases when the installer.modern-installer configuration option is set to false, Poetry uses pip for installing Python package distributions.

On the other hand, when installer.modern-installer configuration option is set to true, Poetry uses installer to install Python package distributions. As can be seen from the linked sources, there isn’t passed any additional metadata file named provenance_url.json that would cause compatibility issues with this PEP.


Conda does not create any provenance_url.json file when Python package distributions are installed.


Hatch uses pip to install project dependencies.


As micropipenv is a wrapper on top of pip, it uses pip to install Python distributions, for both lock files as well as for requirements files.


Thamos uses micropipenv to install Python package distributions, hence any findings for micropipenv apply for Thamos.


PDM uses installer to install binary distributions. The only additional metadata file it eventually creates in the .dist-info directory is the REFER_TO file.


Thanks to Dustin Ingram, Brett Cannon, and Paul Moore for the initial discussion in which this idea originated.

Thanks to Donald Stufft, Ofek Lev, and Trishank Kuppusamy for early feedback and support to work on this PEP.

Thanks to Gregory P. Smith, Stéphane Bidoul, and C.A.M. Gerlach for reviewing this PEP and providing valuable suggestions.

Thanks to Stéphane Bidoul and Chris Jerdonek for PEP 610.

Last, but not least, thanks to Donald Stufft for sponsoring this PEP.


Last modified: 2023-05-17 12:17:24+00:00 GMT