Document Retention & Targeted Envelope Purge: What you should know before using these features

Aren't Document Retention and Targeted Envelope Purge the same thing?

Yes, in that the end result is the same -- purged envelopes and documents. The difference is that Document Retention is the vehicle to purge envelopes across your entire account, whereas Targeted Envelope Purge allows for purging of only specific envelopes in your account.

What does setting a Document Retention policy do?

Setting a document retention policy allows you to specify the number of days DocuSign should retain documents from completed envelopes as measured from the date the envelope is Completed, Voided or Declined. Once the envelope reaches its designated purge date, it is put into a purge queue. The documents within the envelope are then purged (deleted) from the system 14 days later.

In addition, a warning email is sent out 14 days and 7 days prior to the purge to senders and certain types of signers to allow them ample time to retrieve the documents prior to purge (deletion).

What Exactly Does This Mean? What Am I Agreeing To?

Firstly, by enabling this feature you are providing your consent that at a certain date, based on the number of days you specify, DocuSign will permanently delete all documents within all envelopes sent from your account which are currently in, and moving forward once reaching a terminal status of Completed, Voided, Expired or Declined. This deletion is referred to as a purge and cannot be undone.

Secondly, you are providing consent that once those envelopes reach the retention period, purge email notifications (warnings) will be sent to both the Senders of all envelopes and all Recipients of those envelopes. The caveat about Recipients receiving purge email notifications: In order to receive, Recipients must also meet the criteria of:
a) Having been a party in the envelope who was reached in the envelope's routing order and therefore, at least had the opportunity to sign/access the documents
b) Currently have an active DocuSign account of his/her own. Purge email notifications are not sent to recipients without active DocuSign accounts.

Why enable a Document Retention policy?

By default, DocuSign provides full document encryption to ensure the privacy of your data and your documents are securely stored in our ISO 27001 and SSAE 16 data centers using the highest levels of encryption (more details here). However, if your business/use case resides in a regulated industry, you may have requirements that signed documents be stored in a particular repository instead. Therefore, you may have a business need to remove them from the DocuSign data centers. There are of course many other use cases and this is just one example.

What If I Only Want To Purge Specific Envelopes?

In this case, Document Retention is likely not the solution you are looking for. Document Retention applies to ALL envelopes in your account which are in a terminal status (Completed, Voided, Expired, Declined). The Targeted Envelope Purge feature allows you to purge only specific envelopes in a terminal status. Additionally, DocuSign's API allows for the same functionality (See REST API: Purge Documents ). To learn more about purging specific envelopes, please see the following guides:

Where Do I Find Purged Envelope Metadata?

Both Document Retention and Targeted Envelope Purge include an option to Remove fields and metadata. If this option was selected, will you be unable to access a purged envelope's metadata. This includes but is not limited to Envelope Subject, Document Names (filenames), and Tabs.

Selecting this option will purge the entire envelope leaving the account with only its Certificate of Completion.  If you choose to leave this box unchecked, envelope documents will be purged but Form Data (field data and their values) will be retained. If checked, Form Data download will no longer be an option once the envelope is purged.To retrieve an envelope's form data, see how to download Form Data.

Note: This will also remove Envelope Attachments. Envelope Attachments are metadata that are only attached via API. Signer Attachments are considered part of the documents in the envelope and will be purged regardless of the metadata flag.

What does the Redact Personally Identifiable Information option do?

When Redact personally identifiable information is selected, DocuSign redacts all personally identifiable information from the envelope, certificate of completion, and history. Fields that store personal data such as name, physical address, email, and IP address, are replaced with the text “Redacted”. Time stamps for when actions took place are left intact, but you won’t be able to identify the person who took that action. Additionally, Envelope Subject, Document Names (filenames), Tabs, & Signatures are "Redacted" as well since you must also select Remove fields and metadata in order to use this redaction option.


  • The process of redacting personal data cannot be undone. Each individual’s personal information on an envelope will be redacted from the envelope, rendering the audit log and certificate of completion untraceable (from Guide -  Envelope Purge - DocuSign Admin).
  • This feature is used in conjunction with Remove fields and metadata. In other words, it is only an option if Remove fields and metadata is selected as well. 
Purge - Redact personally identifiable information option

DocuSign Support suggests you thoroughly read and understand the following prior to enabling a Document Retention policy or using Envelope Purge. 

Important Functionality Notes & Frequent Misconceptions

  • Envelopes cannot be removed from the purge queue individually by you via the web application nor by DocuSign Support. The only exception would be by way of an API integration. Additionally, this exception only applies to envelopes put in the purge queue via API or Targeted Purge. Envelopes put into the purge queue by Document Retention cannot be removed via API.
  • Envelopes can be removed from the purge queue via the web app only if they were put there by Document Retention. To do so, you must disable Document Retention entirely by disabling (un-checking) the setting, 'Enable document retention policy' and clicking Save.
    • Note: The removal of envelopes from the queue is not immediate upon saving that setting as disabled. Envelopes will be removed from the queue that evening. Please verify this by checking the queue again in the following morning.
  • Envelopes put into the purge queue by Targeted Purge cannot be removed via the web app -- only via a custom API integration.
  • Increasing Document Retention days will extend the actual purge date of envelopes already in the purge queue by updating their "queued on dates." When increased, the system adjusts each envelope's queued on date to: date of terminal status + (new) number of days. This only applies to envelopes in the queue that were put there by Document Retention.
    • Example: Today 1/1/2019 I set my Document Retention days = 0. I have an envelope that was completed the same date on 1/1/2019. That evening, that envelope enters the purge queue with a "queued on date" of 1/1/2019 (meaning it is going to purge on 1/1/2019 + 14 days = 1/15/2019). The next day I change Document Retention days = 10. That evening, the system will change that envelope's queued on date to 1/1/2019 + 10 days = 1/11/2019, extending the actual purge date to 1/11/2019 + 14 days = 1/25/2019.
  • Decreasing Document Retention days will not shorten the actual purge date of envelopes already in the purge queue
  • Enabling Document Retention is retroactive and any envelopes that were in a terminal status (Completed, Voided, Expired, or Declined) before the number of days was defined will be placed into the purge queue
    • Example: Today I set document retention number of days to 20. Tonight, the system will look at all envelopes in my account that are in a terminal status (completed, voided, expired or declined). It will then check the timestamp of when each of those envelopes reached that terminal status. Any envelopes that did so >= 20 days before today are then placed into the purge queue. This means that an envelope which reached a terminal status <20 days ago (say 15 days ago) would not be placed into the queue tonight. Assuming document retention remains enabled with that 20 day value, that envelope will be placed into the purge queue in 20-15 = 5 days from today. 
  • Setting the Document Retention days value to '0' (zero) does not disable Document Retention. In fact, doing so will cause any Completed/Voided/Declined envelopes to enter the purge queue that evening
  • The Target Purge tab in DocuSign Admin displays all envelope in the purge queue regardless of the method used (aka Document Retention, Targeted Purge, and API Purged Envelopes are shown here)
  • The 14-day purge queue duration itself is fixed, and cannot be changed/bypassed. Therefore, if you enter a retention days value of '1' (one), then you are telling the system to purge the documents in 1 + 14 = 15 days, not in 1 day.
  • Remove fields and metadata (Check Box) – When this option is checked, the envelope’s Meta data is also purged. Meta data means document fields, envelope fields, and envelope attachments.
  • Since Signer Attachments are also documents within an envelope, they will be purged regardless of the meta data flag.
  • The Certificate Of Completion (aka Summary) and History are always retained whether meta data is selected or not.
  • The Certificate Of Completion does not include any information on the purge. The envelope History and the web app details view however do include the purged information once the purge process is complete. i.e. 'Documents marked to be purged from Envelope. Reason: Requested By Sender.'
  • The Purge Reason shown in the History reveals how the envelope was purged:
    • 'Reason: Requested By Account' = Envelope was purged by way of Document Retention.
    • 'Reason: Requested By Sender' = Envelope was purged by way of the Targeted Purge feature or direct API call.
  • Using the Delete function in either web application has nothing to do with purging and will have no effect on envelopes currently in the purge queue nor will doing so stop purge email notifications. The Delete function simply removes the "pointer" to the envelope and does not restrict continued access to the envelope's documents by recipients.
  • Regardless of the purge method used, all envelopes in the purge queue will show in the Admin > Targeted Purge list.
  • Envelopes marked for Authoritative Copy (i.e. by way of DocuSign's integration with eOriginal) cannot be targeted for purge until after the copy has been successfully exported/vaulted. Attempts to purge one prior to export will result in the error "An error occurred while adding Envelopes to the purge queue" or "Error adding documents to the purge queue. Envelope is an authoritative copy, documents cannot be removed."
  • Purge Email Notifications are only sent to the Sender and Recipients of the envelope who have active DocuSign accounts at that time and who have already been sent an invitation to the envelope. Unaccounted Recipients and/or recipients who have not been sent an invitation are not sent these notifications. 
  • Purge Email Notifications that are sent to Recipients of the envelope cannot be suppressed by the Sender, Account Administrator nor DocuSign Support.
  • Disabling the Manage Email Notifications setting, "Documents will be purged from the system" will not stop your account from sending Purge Email Notifications. Those feature settings only suppress notifications for the user / recipient who disables them.
  • Purge Email Notifications that are sent to the Sender of the envelope can be only suppressed by the Account Administrator via an account-wide setting. This setting must be requested to be enabled by DocuSign Support or your DocuSign Account Team.
  • Purge Email Notifications cannot be suppressed via Branding nor Email Resource File. They can only be customized.

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