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Last updated: 1 Dec 2020

email-alert-api: Data cleanup mechanisms

There are several mechanisms regarding the cleanup of data in Email Alert Api. This doc gives an overview of each.

Nullifying email addresses

Updates the address of old unsubscribed Subscriber records to nil. We do this to comply with GDPR, specifically so we're not retaining user's data for longer than needed.

We nullify subscribers in two different scenarios.

Firstly, once they've been unsubscribed from all subscriptions for over 28 days. We could nullify user's email addresses immediately after unsubscribing but this would limit our ability to assist in user support queries. E.g. restoring a user's subscriptions after they've unsubscribed by accident which would be impossible to do if the system had nullified their address immediately after unsubscribing.

Secondly, subscribers are nullified which are created more than 28 days ago and don't have any subscriptions at all (active or ended). It shouldn't be possible for subscribers to exist without subscriptions but these are queried and removed anyway to prevent storing user's data indefinitely if, for whatever reason, a subscriber ends up with no subscriptions. This has happened before, unintentionally, see here and here.

The NullifySubscribersWorker runs every hour.

Deleting emails

The EmailDeletionWorker deletes emails after 7 days. These recently archived emails get deleted regularly to keep the database performant as we produce a large quantity which the system only uses for a short period of time. In deleting these emails we also delete their associated subscription contents through a db cascade. As of 05/11/2020 we generate around ~3 million emails per day.

The deletion worker runs every hour. Every hour was chosen to limit the worst case backlog (and potential performance impact) if a run of the job fails for transient reasons. Note that it often takes 10-30 minutes just to delete an hour's worth of email, so it's not feasible to run this job more frequently.

Deleting historic data

The HistoricalDataDeletionWorker deletes data we deem as historic everday at midday. Midday was chosen as removing historic data is deemed non urgent work and so running once a day, in hours, seems sufficient.

In general, we remove historic, unused data after a year. One exception to this is that we remove subscriber lists which have been created over seven days ago and never had any subscriptions.

We remove this data so we don't pollute our analytics or run into future capacity issues.

You can read in more detail about the decision to implement the historic deletion of data in ADR-7.