Retain messages in Google Chat and classic Hangouts with Vault

As part of your organization's G Suite information governance approach, you can control how long direct messages (DMs) and messages in rooms in Google Chat and classic Hangouts are retained. Use retention rules to set how long to keep messages and when to delete them, if ever. 

Set custom retention rules to keep data that matches specific conditions for set time. Set a default retention rule when you need to keep all data for a service for all licensed accounts in your organization for a set time. Custom retention rules override default retention rules, even when the default retention rule has a longer retention period.

Before you set retention rules, we strongly recommend you read about how retention works.

WARNING: An improperly configured retention rule can allow Chat and classic Hangouts to immediately and irreversibly purge messages. Use caution when you create or change retention rules. We recommend that you test new rules on a small set of accounts before you apply the rules to your entire organization.

Important information about Chat retention

Retention rules and holds apply to DMs only when history is on

Retention rules and holds always apply to rooms. However, they apply to DMs only when history is turned on. A G Suite admin can control whether history is on or off, or they can allow users to decide.

Retention coverage varies depending on the type of rule
  • The default retention rule applies to all DMs and all rooms.
  • A custom retention rule applied to an organizational unit only covers DMs. Rooms aren't covered.
  • A custom retention rule applied to all rooms only covers rooms. DMs aren't covered.
Retention periods depend on who participates; messages in external rooms aren't retained

Direct messages

A DM is owned by both participants in a chat. When participants are in the same organization but covered by different retention rules, Vault retains messages based on the rule that expires last.

External users: When participants belong to different organizations, DMs are retained according to each organization’s retention rules.

For example, Company A retains DMs for 1 week and Company B retains DMs for 2 years. Vault handles DMs between users in Company A and Company B as follows:

  • Company A retains the DMs for 1 week, then any messages not already deleted are deleted. These messages are no longer available to Company A users. Chat has a 30-day retention period that keeps messages for 30 days after they're deleted. During that period, the messages are still available in Vault. After the Chat retention period ends, the DM is no longer available in Vault for Company A.
  • Company B retains the DMs, and can search and export them, for 2 years. After 2 years, any messages not already deleted are deleted and retained by the Chat 30-day retention period. After the Chat retention period ends, the DM is no longer available in Vault for Company B and is purged from Google systems.

Rooms

A conversation in a room is owned by all participants in the conversation. When participants are in the same organization but covered by different retention rules, Vault retains messages based on the rule that expires last.

External users: When participants belong to different organizations, the conversation is retained according to the rules of the organization of the room’s creator. If users in your organization participate in rooms owned by another organization, those messages aren’t available to Vault for retention, holds, search, or export.

When a retention period expires, Vault purges all covered Chat messages

Chat retention rules don't have the option to purge only messages deleted by users. A retention rule that removes messages purges all messages when the retention period expires.

Create a custom retention rule for Chat and classic Hangouts

You can create custom rules that apply to individual organizational units or to all rooms:

  1. Sign in to Vault(ediscovery.google.com).
  2. In the left navigation, click Retention.
  3. Click Create Rule.
  4. Choose where to apply the rule: Chat.
  5. Choose an entity:
    • Click organizational unit and choose a unit from the drop-down menu. The rule applies only to DMs that include a member of the organizational unit (not rooms).
    • Click all rooms to create a rule that applies all rooms in the domain (not DMs).
  6. Choose how long to keep messages:
    • Choose indefinitely to permanently retain messages covered by this rule.
    • To discard messages after a period of time, enter the number of days, from 1 to 36,500.
    Warning:Vault immediately begins the process of purging data that exceeds the retention coverage period as soon as you submit a new rule. This can include data users expect to keep. Do not proceed to the next step until you’re sure the rule is configured correctly. 
  7. Click Save. Before you create a retention rule that expunges all messages, Vault asks you to confirm you understand the effects of this retention rule. Check the boxes and click Confirm to create the rule.

Set the default retention rule for Chat and classic Hangouts

The default retention rule applies to all messages in your organization that are not covered by a custom rule or a hold.

  1. Sign in to Vault (ediscovery.google.com).
  2. In the left navigation, click Retention.
  3. Under Default retention rules, click Chat.
  4. Check the Set a default retention rule for Chat box.
  5. Choose how long to keep messages:
    • Choose indefinitely to permanently retain all messages.
    • To discard messages after a period of time, enter the number of days, from 1 to 36,500.
    Warning: Vault immediately begins the process of purging data that exceeds the default retention coverage period as soon as you submit this rule. This can include data users expect to keep. Do not proceed to the next step until you’re sure the rule is configured correctly. 
  6. Click Save. Before you create a retention rule that expunges all messages, Vault asks you to confirm you understand the effects of this retention rule. Check the boxes and clickConfirm to create the rule.
 
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