The question on the legality of one of the most popular data gathering tools definitely scrapes everyone’s attention. While many businesses use web data scraping to scrape relevant information from various sources, there are some questions that we will address here. Before we get into the legal.
What is Web Data Scraping?
Web data scraping, also known as web data extraction, is the process of retrieving or “scraping” data from a website. Unlike the mundane, mind-numbing process of manually extracting data, web scraping uses intelligent automation to retrieve hundreds, millions, or even billions of data points from the internet’s seemingly endless frontier.
More than a modern convenience, the true power of web data scraping lies in its ability to build and power some of the world’s most revolutionary business applications. ‘Transformative’ doesn’t even begin to describe the way some companies use web scraped data to enhance their operations, informing executive decisions all the way down to individual customer service experiences. Many technological advancements are leading to innovative ways to data scraping, like IoT web data scraping
Let us touch upon a concept that often comes up and confuses most of us when we read about Web data scraping. So, what is web crawling? Web crawling entails downloading a web page’s data automatically, extracting the hyperlinks on the same, and following them. This downloaded data can be organized in an index or a database, using a process called web crawling, to make it easily searchable.
How are the two techniques different? In simple words, you can use web data scraping to scrape book reviews from the Goodreads website to rate and evaluate books. You can use this data for an array of analytical experiments. On the other hand, one of the most popular applications of a web crawler is to download data from various websites and make a search engine. Googlebot is Google’s own web crawler or Web Spider.
In the recent past, you all must have sensed a lot of negative sentiment around the concept of web data scraping. That might be the primary reason you are even here. Let us find out why web data scraping is often seen negatively.
Web data scraping basically replicates and automates your activity on clicking on links and copying and pasting data. To do so, a web crawler sends way more requests per second than you would be able to do in the same time frame. As you can imagine, this will create an unexpected load on websites. Web scraping engines can also opt to stay anonymous while scraping data from the website.
As well, scraping engines can avoid security measures. that could prohibit automatic download of data from a website. This data could differently not be accessed. Many of us also believe that web data scraping is an act of complete disregard of copyright laws along with Terms of Service. Terms of Service (ToS) usually contain clauses that bind a person legally by prohibiting him/her from crawling or extracting data in an automated fashion.
Having said that, it is evident that web data scraping does not go well down with most industries and web-content owners. But, the question that appears here is, is it really illegal to scrape data from websites using automated search engines?
Starting with the biggest BS around web data scraping. Is web data scraping legal? Yes, unless you use it unethically. Web data scraping is just like any tool in the world. You can use it for the good stuff and you can use it for bad stuff. Web data scraping itself is not illegal. As a matter of fact, web data scraping – or web data crawling, were historically associated with well-known search engines like Google or Bing. These search engines crawl sites and index the web. Because these search engines built trust and brought back traffic and visibility to the sites they crawled, their bots created a favorable view towards web data scraping. It is all about how you’re to web scrape and what you do with the data you acquire.
A good example when web data scraping can be illegal is when you try to scrape nonpublic data. Nonpublic data can be something that is not reachable for everyone on the web. Maybe you have to log in to see the data. in this case, web data scraping is probably unfair, depending on the context. Moreover, it does matter how fine you are technically when scraping a website.
How do you ensure that the scraping action is not breaking any rules?
Many suggest using APIs for data extraction instead of scraping if the website allows that. APIs are actually interface modules that enable users to gather data without having to click on links and copy data regularly. You can directly scrape all data in one go using APIs. that too without breaking any laws. However, scraping comes in helpful when the website does not give APIs for data extraction.
To discover scraping engines crawling over web pages, they use the following methods:
Detection of very high traffic and requests especially from a single client or IP address within a short time span.
Classifying a trend of repetitive tasks performed on the website since, in most cases, human users won’t perform the same repetitive tasks every time.
Discovery through honeypot: Honeypots are traps, designed in the form of links which aren’t available by a typical human user but only by a web crawler or a spider. It raises warnings by tripping alarms when the crawler tries to access the links.
Hence, how do you avoid raising alarms and still not break the rules? The first step is to ensure that the Terms of Service (ToS) are not broken. If a website clearly prohibits any kind of web data scraping, crawling, and indexing. It is safe to not pull data from the site using automated engines. The next step can be to check the rules in the robot.txt file. What is the robot.txt file? It is a file in the root directory of a website (for example, http://example.com/robots.txt) that specifies if the site permits extracting or not.
Since most of the websites want to be listed on the Google search
results, not many ban crawlers and scrapers completely. It is still recommended
to check for the requirements. If the
ToS or robots.txt prohibit you from scraping, written approval from the owner
of the site before you begin web data scraping can help you go ahead with your
pursuits without the fear of any legal trouble.
You should also ensure that you are not loading too multiple requests in
a short duration of time onto the website. Do not overburden the website. Changing the trend of the scraping tool once in a while can
help avoid the detection of repetitive aims by the website. Please ensure that no derivation, copy of the
scraped data has been republished without verifying the license of the data, or
without getting written approval from the copyright holder of the data in
You can also create a page for your scraping application to justify what you are trying to achieve with this data and how you will be using it. It allows you to explain yourself to everyone without attracting a lot of suspicion and interrogation. Given so many regulations, precautions, and conditions, we understand it is tedious to go through the entire web data scraping exercise by yourself.
There are a lot of open-source tools that can
help you scrape data. While you can use all of them to extract the relevant
data, there are several other companies like Hir Infotech that can provide
these services to you for the appropriate fee.
How can Hir Infotech help you with web
Many companies can do all these tasks for you, scrape the specified data for you and provide the same in a well-structured file format like .csv. Hir Infotech is a significant player in this market. We shall assess your data requests, list the requirements down, conduct a systematic feasibility analysis, and inform you well in advance about the quality and quantity of data that you can expect.
With a transparent and hassle-free process, Hir Infotech ensures that the data-scraping exercise is a good experience for you. This will enable you to focus on the other analytical processes that need to be designed using this data. We have provided web data scraping services to a wide array of clients across multiple industries, including the retail and media sectors.
Wish to leverage Hir Infotech Web Scraping Services to grow your business? Contact Hir Infotech, your web data scraping experts.
At Hir Infotech, we know that every dollar you spend on your business is an investment, and when you don’t get a return on that investment, it’s money down the drain. To ensure that we’re the right business with you before you spend a single dollar, and to make working with us as easy as possible, we offer free quotes for your project.