GDPR Compliance and Google Analytics

If you use Google Analytics, there’s a good chance that in the last couple of weeks you’ve received an email from Google regarding your data retention settings. The email states that “any user and event data that is older than your retention setting will be marked for permanent deletion”, effective May 25, 2018.

What is GA Data Retention?

Data retention controls are a new feature of Google Analytics that allow you to manage how long certain data is stored on Google’s servers and subsequently available to you for viewing and reporting. The data affected by this setting is any user-level or event-level data associated with cookies, user-identifiers and advertising identifiers.

Within these new settings, users can choose from one of five options available for the retention period: 14 months, 26 months, 38 months, 50 months or “do not automatically expire,” which will prompt Google to never delete any data. The default setting for data retention is 26 months.

As Google points out, this setting will not affect most standard reporting, which is “based on aggregate data,” but rather will affect ad-hoc reporting of sampled data. This includes custom segments, secondary dimensions and table filters.

Why is Google making these changes?

In April of 2016, the European Union adopted a new set of data protection laws called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which regulates the storage of customers’ personal information. The new regulations came with a two-year transition period, making them officially enforceable on May 25th.

While it’s possible that Google Analytics users who serve a European customer base could face legal action for not following these new regulations, many people believe that Google is using GDPR compliance as an excuse to clean out their analytics databases. The storage of such a large amount of historical data is certainly costly for Google and GDPR presents a great opportunity for them to dump a significant amount of information.

How will this affect my analytics?

On May 25th, Google will permanently delete any affected data based on the data retention period you have set. Assuming you do nothing to change these settings, the default 26-month period will apply and all the applicable data prior to March 25th, 2016 will no longer be available.

If you wish to change the data retention period, this can be done at the Property level of your analytics account under the Tracking Info section. It takes 24 hours for these changes to take effect, so we recommend making any desired changes by May 23rd to avoid the potential loss of data you wish to keep.

For additional help with GDPR compliance or Google Analytics, give us a call at 501-537-2246 or fill out our Get Started form today.

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