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Data Retention in Google Analytics

Following our blog post in March regarding the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being introduced in Europe, Google Analytics has introduced a new data retention setting for all accounts, and is reminding all users to check their settings prior to 25 May when the new law comes into effect.

The new data retention controls allow Google Analytics users to manage how long their user and event data are stored in their account. The settings for this can be found in the Admin area of Analytics, under Property / Tracking Info / Data Retention and all users should review these settings and decide if they need to change the settings from the default.

Any user and event data that was collected prior to the period chosen as a retention setting will be marked for permanent deletion and will no longer be accessible in Google Analytics. This deleted data will affect the use of segmentation, some custom reports and secondary dimensions when applied in date ranges older than your retention setting.

However, users need to consider that the retention period data only 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), and that the standard aggregated Google Analytics data and reporting is not affected.

Therefore the user and event data managed by this setting is needed only when users apply certain advanced features in Analytics where user identified data is being collected, like when applying custom segments to reports or creating unusual custom reports.

Most Google Analytics users will not need to change this setting and there will be limited impact on their reporting. The default period after which Analytics will automatically delete any identifiable user data is 26 months, but account users can amend this to a shorter 14 month period, or for longer periods of 38 or 50 months.

There is also ‘Reset on new activity’ option which is set to ON by default. This means that the data retention period of a user identifier will be reset with each new event from that user. For example, if data retention is set to 14 months but a user initiates a new session every month, then that user’s identifier is refreshed every month and never reaches the 14-month expiry. If the user doesn’t initiate a new session before the retention period expires, then that user’s data is deleted.

If you’d like any further information about this new feature in Analytics, please contact us.