User and Event Data Retention: Set up for Google Analytics

The data retention depends upon data usages and the nature of business; for data-driven business decisions, a longer retention period makes sense.

Google has recently sent an email to every Google Analytics Account/Property holder to make some changes in property settings. This setting was introduced after EU Law on GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which came into force on May 25, 2018.

The law is not only limited to the EU but also accepted globally in major countries. Hence, Google has made this setting mandatory for all the account holders.

The setting is available under Data Retention tab [Admin > Property > Tracking Info]. Basically, there are only two options under this retention setting which make this setup quite easy.

Data Retention Setting - Google Analytics

Data Retention Setting – Google Analytics

User and event data retention:

This is a drop-down menu option with a different date range in months – 14, 26, 38, and 50 months. There is also an option “do not automatically expire” but I am very much skeptical about using this option since this voluntarily provides a Google to choose the time period on its own.

The idea of this option is simple –   how long do you want Google to store the User-specific data on their server. It’s defaulted to 26 months when you visit the data retention page for the first time.

I personally prefer the default value i.e. 26 months as best because I don’t use or store any Users specific data into the GA server. However, the options might differ for someone’s nature of the business.

Example: for an e-commerce website, it makes sense to hold the data for a longer duration since they mostly make data-driven decisions for the business.

So the important question still unanswered. Will I able to query GA data longer than the period I set?

Of course yes – the data is still there in GA and will be there forever till you’re continually using the GA property and sending the data from your website. It will be in the form of aggregated tables or in simple terms just a “collective data set” of all users.

Reset on new activity:

I personally think this is a great addition to a data retention setting. This option will “reset” user data expiry time period (i.e. 26 months in my case) from the day of the last activity. Simple example:

  • I visited an E-commerce website today – GA will delete my data after 26 months
  • I again visited the same website 6 months later – GA will reset the expiry and add 6 months to expiration date i.e. 26 + 6 = 32 months

So basically the idea is to keep data stored till the time the user is actively visiting your website and delete once he/she is no longer returning. This option is very sensible I think.

I hope this given some idea about GDPR and myths around new data retention settings & policy. I’ve also published a video on my YouTube channel.

Google Analytics GDPR Policy and Data Retention Settings (Demo)

What is your opinion?

I personally think this is a great addition to comply with GDPR law. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve set to default options “26 months” and reset on activity.

Do you’ve any other or thought around this? Feel free to drop-in below the comment box.

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