By now you’ve likely heard, read, or watched something in the media about data retention and privacy on the internet, and there’s a pretty good chance it was about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. However, there’s another story unfolding in the cyber-privacy world, and it could impact how long your browsing data will be retained by Google Analytics.
What’s the story?
Starting May 25th 2018, Analytics users will have to decide how long they want Google Analytics to retain the data that it collects. After the set retention period, the data will be automatically deleted. This new option will apply to both user-level and event-level data, which are associated with the cookies that websites leave when someone is browsing on their site, and also user-identifiers like user IDs.
How does this work?
Basically, when data has been stored for the pre-set amount of time, it’s automatically deleted every month. When you change the amount of time data is retained, the data that is affected will be erased in the next monthly deletion cycle, and once you change the retention period, you have 24 hours before the change takes place where you could change your mind, and any data that would have been deleted is not impacted.
So what do I do?
If you’re in the U.S., you can change your data retention period in Google Analytics, and choose how long you want the data to be retained before it’s deleted. The options are 14 months, 26 months, 38 months, 50 months, and “do not automatically expire”. If you choose “do not automatically expire”, then essentially nothing will change about how data is collected and stored, but it’s just a matter of actually going in and changing it. It’s also worth noting that if Analytics users don’t do anything, their data retention period will be automatically set to twenty-six months. If you’re not sure how to change your settings, here is an article on how to do it.