The one setting you need to adjust in GA4 or you might lose all your data

Gollum saying "sneaky little hobbitses"

A while ago, Google added a Data Retention option to Google Analytics. This can be found in the admin area. This feature allows you to choose when the specific event data collected by Google expires. This doesn’t affect most standard reports because they’re pre-aggregated but if you’re trying to answer a very specific question that requires a more custom analysis you would likely require this specific event data.

Here are the default settings:

And here are the options available, so you can turn this off on your end which ensures that the data never expires.

Here’s the deal though, with Google Analytics 4 the options are much more limited:

And what’s worse, if you create a new GA4 property, Google will actually default to 2 months hoping you won’t notice:

This is as close to a middle finger from Google as you will get.

So when you’re setting up your GA4 property, make sure to at least change it to 14 months.

The real solution though is to use the BigQuery integration which is now free (and even though you pay for BigQuery storage, for most Australian websites this will be negligible).

I suspect that this severe restriction of options is to “subtly” encourage as many websites as possible to start using BigQuery. It is win-win since the BigQuery export is a great feature and a game-changer for most websites in terms of the ease of data ownership and data analysis. However it’s also quite likely that this move has something to do with Google wanting to mitigate its privacy legal risk, since it’s passing not only the data ownership but also the legal liability straight to you, dear webmaster.

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