The system and method of this invention provides an access control list which spans across object boundaries in an object oriented database. In addition to providing read and write access permissions, the access control list provides execute semantics which apply to the execution of methods in an object oriented database. Within the entries of the access control lists, each of the permissions for read, write, and execute can be assigned separately to each of a number of ids representing user ids or group ids. Upon request for access to the data by the user, the user id of the user and the group ids for which the user is a member are searched for within the entries to determine whether the user has the privileges to perform the operation requested against the objects. In addition, the access control policies are inherited from an object's superobject; resulting in a least privilege for the object.