Scraping Secrets – A Guide to Ethical Web Scraping

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Utilising data scraping in your business is a fantastic and highly efficient way of improving your overall customer experience by gaining valuable insight about their wants, needs and desires. Whilst this sounds like a quick and easy method to gain further knowledge about your target audience, the question remains – is web scraping ethical? Thankfully, the answer is yes. At the end of the day, there are good and bad aspects to everything in life, web scraping included. In this article, we look at the basics of ethical web scraping and how you can utilise this tool in the most moral way possible, so read on to find out more.

1. Pay Attention to The Terms and Conditions

When utilising the services of a website scraper, it is important that you look into the terms and conditions of various websites. Scraping data from a website that clearly states web scraping is not allowed is would prove to be unethical. Ethical web scraping is practised when data is scraped from websites that allow scraping, or if you have personally gotten permission from a website owner to do so. If you’re not clear if web scraping is allowed or not, we highly recommend contacting the webmaster to ask if you are allowed to harvest from their site. Avoid any unnecessary trouble by practising ethical web scraping.

      2.    Identify Yourself

When engaging in web scraping, it is highly recommended that you identify yourself. Should a webmaster notice any unusual traffic caused by your scraping service, they might get suspicious and proceed to investigate where the traffic is coming from. This is why we always recommend identifying yourself and stating who you are in your HTTP request. You can add your name and contact information to your header, thus preventing any confusion. Being completely transparent is one of the key elements of practising ethical web scraping.

      3.    Avoid Plagiarism at All Costs

One of the beauties of web scraping is that it allows you to collect content from all over the web in one place. Whilst it is not a crime to collate content, you have to keep in mind that reproducing this data without the necessary permissions can be counted as plagiarism. Plagiarism as we know, is frowned upon both in real life and on the internet, and is not just unethical, but also illegal. If you copy content and reproduce it as your own, you could find yourself in some hot water. This is why it is always important that you use the data collected as material to analyse, rather than as material to reproduce. Should you desire to reproduce certain content on your own website, it is of utmost importance that you get all the necessary permissions from webmasters before doing so. If you don’t get the green light, you’re better off just coming up with your own content instead.

      4.    Practice Gentle Scraping

When you utilise scraping on websites owned by the government or larger corporations, chances are that their websites will be able to handle the load of your scraper. However, when scraping from smaller websites or blogs, you need to take special consideration. Smaller websites or websites owned by individuals may not be able to handle extremely high amounts of traffic, and you could accidentally cause their websites to crash. This is why we recommend scraping during off-peak hours or to space out your requests in order to not overload their servers.

      5.    Do Not Utilise Personal Data

When it comes to collecting data online, it is important that you do not look for private information such as peoples’ addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and so on. Many spammers engage in collecting such sensitive data online to send out spam emails and phone calls which in turn can cause many people to get upset. Avoid sending any promotional emails or phone calls to individuals that you have identified via data scraping. Doing so can be considered unethical and just plain annoying!

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We hope that this guide to ethical web scraping has given you some valuable insight into how you can utilise web scraping in the most moral and just way possible!

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