On May 25, 2018, Google is instituting new Analytics data retention (ADR) controls. The rollout of these new features has been intentionally timed to correspond with the date on which a new European Union regulation – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – will go into effect.
While the GDPR may not have direct impacts on many U.S.-based websites, Google’s new ADR controls have been implemented to comply with the GDPR – and they can directly impact the Analytics data for U.S.-based websites. Consequently, it’s important for those who rely on and monitor Analytics data to understand the facets and implications of these new controls, as well as how to use them.
To that end, the following shares helpful answers to common questions about the new Google Analytics Data Retention controls. For more insights regarding Google Analytics and how to improve your site’s performance and results, simply contact the experts at Epic Web Results.
What Data Will Be Affected by the New Data Retention Controls?
Intended to enhance privacy protections, Google’s new Analytics data retention controls will apply to:
- User-related data, such as user identifiers (like cookies), visitor locations, users’ site access patterns and the pages users are (or are not) viewing the most
- Event-related data, like features that users click on, complete and submit, download and watch.
Please note that:
- Only those who have Administrative-level access in Google Analytics will be able to manipulate the new retention controls. Those whose access levels are “Collaborate” or “Read & Analyze” will not have access to the new ADR controls.
- The new ADR controls will not impact standard aggregated reports generated by Google Analytics.
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How Do the Data Retention Controls Work?
These new controls will essentially let Google know when to delete specific user- and event-related information. So, for example, if the retention period for certain data is set for 14 months, that data will be automatically deleted by Google after 14 months (i.e., at the end of the retention period).
Once a retention period has been chosen, it can be changed in the future, as long as the period is still “active” (i.e., not expired or ended).
For any changes to retention periods:
- Google will wait 24 hours before enacting the change.
- Any data set to be deleted (according to the change in retention period) will be deleted in the following month’s deletion cycle.
What Are the Options for Retention Periods? What Is the Default Setting?
The options for data retention periods range from 14 to 50 months (mos.), and they specifically include:
- 14 mos.
- 26 mos.
- 38 mos.
- 50 mos.
- Do not automatically expire.
The default setting is 26 months.
What Is the “Reset on New Activity” Option? What’s Its Default Setting?
When this option is “ON,” new events associated with specific user will reset the clock on the retention period. So, for instance, if a user accesses a site monthly (and the “reset on new activity” feature is ON), the expiration date (associated with the chosen retention period for that user) will never be reached because the period will reset each month upon new activity from that user.
In contrast, if this feature is “OFF,” new user activity will NOT reset the retention period. Consequently, in this scenario, the user- and event-related data will be automatically deleted by Google when the retention period ends.
The default setting for this control is ON.
How Do I Choose or Change My Analytics Data Retention Options?
To access the Analytics Data Retention controls and make any changes to these settings:
- Sign in to your Google Analytics account.
- Click Admin and select the property you would like to edit.
- In the middle column (labeled “Property”), click “Tracking Info,” then “Data Retention.”
- Look for the “User-Data Retention” field, and choose the preferred retention period.
- Look for the “Reset on New Activity” field, and update to OFF if needed.
What Happens If I Don’t Take Action to Change the Analytics Data Retention Control Settings by May 25th?
Google is urging Analytics account holders to take prompt action to review and modify their data retention settings, as needed, before the rollout date of May 25th.
If no action is taken by that rollout date, account holders may risk losing important user- and event-related data that is older than 26 months (as that default setting will apply if no changes to the settings have been made).
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