When an account expires for whatever reason (e.g. expired card, trial ends) how long should we hold on to the users data before deleting it?

I am referring to all data except what identifies them as an existing user.

edit - The UX aspect is this (as dnbrv eloquently put it):

if a user comes back after some time, they might expect their data to be available.

  • Are you referring to data held in the United States or elsewhere? Apr 14, 2012 at 23:31
  • At least a month would be nice, but I'm not sure what legal issues there are around that
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 14, 2012 at 23:42
  • 1
    I'm not really clear on what the User Experience aspect of this question is. So you keep their data for X amount of time. Then what? Why are you keeping it? Are you expecting them to renew their application or do you want to sell their details to advertisers? What is the UX angle here?
    – JonW
    Apr 15, 2012 at 0:20
  • 2
    @JonW: The UX aspect is this: if a user comes back after some time, they might expect their data to be available.
    – dnbrv
    Apr 15, 2012 at 0:35
  • Too many business concerns with this question, I think - ideally, you'd keep the information as long as possible, at least for analysis and mining purposes. Disk space is cheap, user information is not.
    – Nic
    Apr 15, 2012 at 3:16

3 Answers 3


You should hold on to the accounts as long as possible. Using data from these accounts can help you make better business decisions in the future by analyzing data from it. It can help you improve your product with a very low footprint - as I said in my comment, disk space is cheap, and the account information is not.

With regards to UX, you can reactivate the account for a user at any time. Depending on the usefulness of that for your given offering, that may or may not be something to consider.

As far as "doing the right thing," you may want to disclose to your users that you will hold onto their information for an indefinite time, but also give them the option to opt out should they not be comfortable with that.

  • 2
    Although this may apply in the US, Data Protection Principles in the European Union and other countries are likely to make this course of action unlawful. (Not a criticism of the answer, but a caution for those outside the US who may read it) Apr 16, 2012 at 6:41

Forever, link the inactive accounts to a CLM* program to send the occasional; Hi, we miss you mail and re-activate some users over time.

A hard part of online is getting users in, why remove them when they are finally in. Use it to your advantage!

*(CLM = Customer Lifecycle Management)

Good luck!


This really depends on a couple of factors.

If there are technical limitations to the amount of data you can keep you can purge the oldest accounts. If the data becomes useless after a fixed period of time you can remove the old data.

However I would keep the basic account data alive so that if users return they can pick up where they left off. Removing all account data creates a barrier for returning users.

This creates a situation where leaving users really want to delete their account data. Add an options for those users too.

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