Difference Between Legal or Illegal Web Scraping

In this blog, we will discuss data science, in particular, web scraping.

What is Web Scraping?

What is Web Scraping?

The technique used to extract vast amounts of data from websites is called web scraping. The data obtained is then saved onto a local file into the computer or to a database in the form of a table (spreadsheet).

A scraper is a script that parses HTML sites. Any content that is shown or is available on a webpage can be scraped easily. There are programming languages that support web scraping, which include scraping libraries such as “in Java, there is Jsoup, Jaunt, in Python programming, there are beautiful soup and Scrappy, and in Node.js, there is Osmosis and Noodle.

Benefits of Web Scraping

  • Website scraping is faster than manually copying and pasting the data.
  • Web scraping increases data extraction accuracy.
  • Web scraping reduces the time of extracting a large amount of data from the sources.
  • We can compare the different sites using the data scraped from the websites.
  • Web scraping is widely used in digital businesses for data harvesting, market research for social media data scraping.

Is Web Scraping Legal or Illegal?

In our opinion, web scraping is in itself not illegal, as one could scrape one’s website without any issue.

You can make use of the extracted data into your website with any of the web scraping tools such as Import.io, Webhose.io, CloudScrape, Scrapinghub, ParseHub, VisualScraper, Spinn3r, etc. Thus, scraping should be done with prior information to the owner of the data. This is true even when the extraction could be public and anyone can see or use it.

There are lots of software available for web scraping in the market. The software used for web scraping will automate the load and extract the data from multiple pages of websites depending on one’s needs. There are software custom-built for particular websites. Subsequently, working of a particular software can also be configured according to sites with specific changes, that is set to an operating button when you click the button, you can save the available data from the website to the computer.

The problem arises when you scrape or crawl somebody else’s website without obtaining their prior written permission, or in disregard of their Terms of Service (ToS). As a result, significant penalties and punishments apply to those who intentionally access restricted data. Furthermore, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment.

You are supposed to obtain the information or data from the website to use it for non-commercial purposes. Even though the terms of intellectual property rights are not seen to be breaking, if a particular policy is followed, such as the data can be publicly accessible, then anyone can manually scrape it even without any means of automation. Then also, it will not come under the violation of laws of IT or get accounted for in any criminal offense.

Precautions when Doing Web Scraping

If companies or individuals do not like getting their data scraped, they have entirely the authority to sue you with penality charges, for whatever reasons they want. Following is some advice for legal web scrapping.

  1. Make sure you are aware of legal policies and privacy policies on the site before you scrape the website’s data for information.
  2. Use an API provided by the client instead of scraping data.
  3. If you doubt the legality of what you’re doing, don’t do it without the proper advice of a lawyer.
  4. Don’t republish your crawled or scraped data or any derivative dataset without verifying the license of the data, or without obtaining written permission from the copyright holder.
  5. Do not violate copyright.
  6. Do not breach data protection laws.
  7. Show your identity and your contact details, so that they can contact you before offensive reporting or ceasing your crawling. Make them desist you back if you can handle them.
  8. Before scraping any website, check the robots.txt file document, which describes the Robots Exclusion Standard of what a crawler should or shouldn’t crawl according to the rule.

Prevention from Web Scraping

There are specific ways to protect your site from the scrapers:

  1. Limit the individual IP addresses request to your site.
  2. Set the requirement of the login credential to your access to your site. In the meantime, you get every individual identity through the credentials.
  3. Embed information in the form of the media object, rather than in text. Such as it’ll be difficult to scrap the information when not available in text format.
  4. Don’t post confidential or important information on your website if you don’t want to put it into the wrong hands.
  5. Create Honey Pot pages that human visitors never access, but a bot crawling through the pages might access the link. Hence, there are chances of an illegal scraper to be identified. You can block the request from that IP address.
  6. Using CAPTCHA is also useful; multiple CAPTCHA’s requests from a particular IP might seek your attention to check the IP address. Then you can block all the requests coming from that crawler IP address.

Final Words

Now, you got a brief idea about the thin line difference between legal or illegal scraping. Therefore, with all the advice and points mentioned, you can go for the website scraping legally as well as you can prevent your website from illegal scraping by following the things mentioned in mind.

Please feel free to share your feedback and suggestions in the comment section below. To know more about our services, please visit Loginworks Softwares Inc.

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