There are ways to make Read only fields in SharePoint:
1. Using PowerShell to set ShharePoint column read only.
3. Using SharePoint Designer to make SharePoint list field read only.
Your "second approach" sounds like it might be just what we need. Can you provide more detail or an example of how it would actually be done? We are using Sharepoint Foundation 2013.
I often like to use multiple lists and workflows between them to update one list with the master record. List 1 could update fields a, b, and c while list 2 could update fields d, e, and f. A third list could be the basis to create the record on the master list. Using the lookups, you can see the other columns but not update them. People only get permission to update the columns they need to by restricting them on the list they are responsible to update. It works well for HR functions.
I developed a farm solution that restricts edit access to the entire record based on a column value. Not really column level security, but it does help in some scenarios where you want a document locked depending upon its metadata values.
rrfreeman blogspot restricted-edit-event-receiver
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