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A Brief Overview of Google’s New Data Retention Controls

If you’re currently using Google Analytics to track your website’s activity, events and goals, then you should have recently received an email regarding Google’s update to data retention. It’s important to update these settings to your liking, because these new settings will go in effect on May 25, 2018 - the same day the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Google will begin deleting data according to these settings, starting on May 25th - There are numerous options to choose from regarding data retention. Data retention is basically how far back Google will store your user and event data. For example, if your data retention is set to 14 months, any data stored earlier than that point in time will be deleted.

  • So, what data will be deleted? - According to Google, “The retention period applies to user-level and event-level data associated with cookies, user-identifiers (e.g., User-ID) and advertising identifiers (e.g., DoubleClick cookies, Android’s Advertising ID, Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers)". This means you will still have general tracking data available, but if you’re tracking specific events or advertising campaigns, this data can be removed according to the settings for your property.
  • How this can affect your account - Custom reports, dashboards and segmentation can be affected, especially if they contain data that goes back time periods earlier than your data retention setting. Google’s Data Retention page states, “Keep in mind that standard aggregated Google Analytics reporting is not affected. The user and event data managed by this setting is needed only when you use certain advanced features like applying custom segments to reports or creating unusual custom reports.” 

  • How often data is deleted - This data is deleted on a monthly basis depending on your data retention setting.
  • Your options in the Data Retention Controls - As stated above, Google gives different time frames for data retention. These include:
    • 14 months
    • 26 months
    • 38 months
    • 50 months
    • Do not automatically expire

      Keep in mind that if you change your data retention settings to a shorter period, Google automatically deletes the data that falls outside the new setting. For example, if the setting is changed from 26 months to 14 months, Google deletes the data outside that 14 month window. Google does wait 24 hours before this happens, so if this setting is accidentally changed, there is time to change it back.

  • Reset on New Activity option - If checked yes, this means that the user identifiers will reset every time a new event occurs for that identifier. For example (using the 14 months setting), a user that completed an event 15 months ago, and again 5 months ago, will not be deleted because the time frame for that event was reset to 5 months when the latest event completion took place.

Although this change in tracking will not affect everybody, it’s definitely worth taking a few minutes to ensure the setting is what you want it to be. To check your current settings, log into Google Analytics, click Admin and choose the property you want to check. In the PROPERTY column, click Tracking Info > Data Retention

Remember that everyone’s situation is different. If this user information is important to your business, you may not want Google to automatically delete it. I know I wouldn’t! The best thing to do if you have any questions regarding this new update and how it might affect your Analytics account is to reach out via our contact form! We’d be happy to help.

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