Google Analytics

GA4 Redact Data Feature

Haven’t seen this in the release notes yet but I spotted a potentially useful new feature while running a few Google Analytics audits this week.

One of the issues we’ve long had to wrestle with as Google Analytics consultants is Personally Identifiable Information (PII) creeping into the accounts. This could take the form of

  • Names
  • Email Addresses
  • Phone Numbers
  • Physical Addresses
  • GPS Coordinates
  • Usernames

Often it isn’t being collected intentionally but is a factor of the platform, for example developers using URL parameters to pass data from one page to the next or simply thinking it might be helpful to pass it to GA without considering the implications. And there are implications.

PII is against Google’s terms of service, and their response can be draconian. In one example a few years ago a friend took a senior role at a large UK retailer and arrived just as a GA360 implementation project was getting underway. One day I get a call from him

“Dan, so Google have looked into our GA account and found we’ve been sending names and email addresses to it. They’ve deleted all our history, can we do anything to get it back?”

My response “sorry mate, you are fucked”

For the avoidance of doubt this was almost certainly a larger retailer with more clout than you so you need to play by the rules.

So consultants like myself have had to work with developers to prevent PII, take steps to mitigate when it is found, and often hack around with Google Tag Manager to ensure it can’t be collected in the first place.

Looks like in part GA4 are making part of this a little easier with their new “Redact data” feature. Can’t believe it’s taken this long to exist but I’m pretty happy to see it there.

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