you can use arrays for a lot of stuff and i guess you can use it "even" for your problem but i do not understand it fully.
you can implement the security within the php code and verify the input and the userlevel. so if you define a level for each column and compare that columnlevel to the userlevel then you should be fine to go. using an array here might help you to store and access the level for each column in an easy way. i.e. [tt]$columnlevel = 3;[/tt] could set the level for column 0. with a foreach [php.net]you can then walk through all columns and compare it to the userlevel and eventually apply the update-value to your query if it's ok. finally a query is created with all the columns which are allowed only.