New Data Retention Policies in Google Analytics

This post reflects my personal thoughts (me = Krista Seiden) and in no way speaks on behalf of Google or Google Analytics. I’m not a lawyer and am not pretending to offer any sort of legal advice with the below post.

 

Now that the legal statements are out of the way, I want to be sure that my readers have the same understanding of some of the new settings taking effect in Google Analytics on May 25th, 2018 as I do.

Starting May 25th, new data retention policies for Google Analytics will take effect. What is Data Retention you might ask? It’s the term used to describe the amount of time (in months in this case) that Google Analytics will retain property data beyond standard reporting.

What is ‘Standard Reporting’? Great question! This is a generic term that refers to the aggregated reports available in Google Analytics today, such as a Channels report with no segmentation or secondary dimensions applied. Applying a segment, using certain custom dimensions, or adding a secondary dimension may take you out of standard reporting and would thus be subject to the data retention timelines that take effect on May 25th, 2018. This means that your standard reports (again, ex. would be a Channels report without any changes) will still be available, but you would not be able to apply segments or breakdowns to data older than your selected retention periods.

Data retention periods in Google Analytics range from “14 months” to “do not automatically expire” and are at the control of account admins (learn more in this help center doc)
As a business or organization, you should decide what data retention period makes sense for you and your business and make your settings selection accordingly.

 

What does this mean:

  • Your user and event data will be retained according to the Data Retention settings selected at the property level for every Google Analytics property you manage
  • According to the retention period selected, Google Analytics will automatically delete user and event data that is older than the selection
  • Note that these settings will not affect standard reports (as described above, i.e. standard reporting tables will be available and unaffected, but querying data with segments or secondary dimensions would not be available outside of the selected retention period)

Why is this important:

  • 14 months of data allows for year over year reporting with a full data set
  • 26 months allows you to do analysis over a 2+ years time period, which for many businesses, is a sufficient amount of time for reporting on business metrics.
  • Larger time periods beyond 26 months enables businesses to analyze data beyond what is available in standard reports going back more than 1-2 years.

How to make changes:

  • Data will be retained according to the setting selected on a rolling basis, meaning that any older user and event data will be deleted.
  • Changes can be made in the Admin → Property → Tracking Info → Data Retention menu to reflect the decisions your organization has made to be in line with its own data retention policies

  • Note that these changes live at the property level and must be modified for each property.

 

Hopefully this post gives you a clearer understanding of the new Data Retention policies going into place on May 25th, 2018. Please use your own judgment and the advice of your own legal resources to determine what the appropriate setting for your properties should be and select those settings prior to May 25th, 2018.

 


This post reflects my personal thoughts (me = Krista Seiden) and in no way speaks on behalf of Google or Google Analytics. I’m not a lawyer and am not pretending to offer any sort of legal advice with the above post.

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82 Comments

  1. Hi, Krista
    ‘User Explorer report’ is standard report of Google Analytics. But I think ‘User Explorer report’ is individual-user behavior report. So, I think ‘Data Retention settings’ will affect User Explorer report (eve if segment function is not applied). Is this correct ?

    And if so, some other standard report will be also exceptionally affected by ‘Data Retention settings’. This is my understanding. OK ?

    Thank you.
    Hiromi Ibukuoro

  2. Is it clear to you if “Event Level Data” includes Events you’ve specifically recorded through a Google Event markup element on your site? I.e. you added “onClick=”ga(‘send’, ‘event’, { eventCategory: ‘Category’, eventAction: ‘Action’, eventLabel: ‘Comment’, eventValue: Value});”” to an element on your site and it was clicked, and sent to the “Events” section of Analytics. Is THAT considered “Event level” data?

    What about Goals configured to TRACK said EVENTS. Will that goal data then be deleted?

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  74. “According to the retention period selected, Google Analytics will automatically delete user and event data that is older than the selection”

    Lets assume ALL my visitors return monthly. As I understand it, that means their retention period is reset/extended on each return visit for a further 14 months (or whatever is specified). That is because “Reset on new activity” is ON by default.

    In that case, no visitor data is deleted, right?

    Now lets assume not all visitors return monthly. Only data from visitors that have been dormant (not returned) for a period of at least 14 months will be deleted, correct? And of course, that does not affect aggregate reports.

    Can you please confirm.

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  81. Mathias

    Hi Krista,
    French commission (CNIL) now require a 13 month delay for data retention, in order to be GDPR compliant (without user consent compliancy ) :
    see https://www.cnil.fr/fr/solutions-pour-les-cookies-de-mesure-daudience
    (the refresh date of this article 15/12/2017 is false, they have updated it this month).
    In GA, we can only set a delay of 14 month : is there anoter way to adjust/custom this delay ?
    Many thanks

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