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Planning a Scraping Project: Legal Point of View

Web scraping is essential for a lot of businesses these days. The market insights derived from the data collected can help enterprises grow and retain their customer base. It helps businesses beat their competition and stay on top of trends in the market as well as technological advancement.

Price scraping enables businesses to set prices that make it competitive, helps it attract price-sensitive customers while remaining profitable.

We cannot talk about automated data collection techniques without involving proxies. Proxies are the reason behind the success of web scraping and price scraping tools and techniques.

If you’d like to learn more about the tools themselves, two of the most popular scraping frameworks, scrapy vs beautifulsoup have been put against each other in this comparison guide written by the professionals at Smartproxy.

What is a Proxy?

A proxy acts as a representative for your device when browsing the internet. Instead of making a web request directly from your device, the proxy server makes it on your behalf, using a different IP address. It will then receive the results from the web request and forward them over to your device.

In a few words, proxies hide your IP address and location from web servers, enabling you to access the internet anonymously.

By using proxy servers, you can collect data from websites without attracting the attention of the website owners. It enables you to rotate IP addresses when scraping. This is necessary because website owners block and ban IP addresses that display browsing behavior that differs from regular traffic such as large amounts of downloads from a single IP address.

Proxies also make it possible to access geo blocked sites. Geoblocking is a process by which websites restrict access to their content based on the geographical location of the user. By using a proxy connected to an IP address from a location that is not blocked, you can bypass these restrictions.

The success of your web data scraping project will depend on the proxy you choose. Here are the major proxy types available in the market.

Data Center Proxies

Data center proxies are artificial. These proxy servers are created in data centers. Usually, datacenter proxies are independent of the user’s internet connection and ISP. They have a high-speed connection and will effectively hide your location.

Residential Proxies

Internet providers provide residential proxies. These are proxies connected to existing devices and real geographical locations. For this reason, they are highly reliable. Websites do not easily detect residential proxies because they give the appearance of organic traffic.

You can purchase proxy servers as shared or dedicated proxies. In the case of shared proxies, you get to use the proxies with several other users and share the costs.

Dedicated proxies, on the other hand, are private. You do not share with any other user. For obvious reasons, dedicated proxies are better than shared proxies. There is no down-time during peak hours, and misuse by any other user does not affect your ability to use the proxy.

The Legality of Web Scraping

The need to use proxies when web scraping often raises questions among business owners who are new to the web scraping process. And it is understandable. Lawsuits can cost your business big money.

Web scraping is legal unless you intend to use the data for malicious purposes. For instance, Google uses web scraping to create its search database, and so if the technique were illegal, they would be the first to go down. But the fact that they use it to index the web makes it okay.

Where you scrape, the data is also important in determining the legality of your web scraping data. You should only scrape data that is publicly available. The kind of data that is readily available on the website and not restricted in any way.

Here are some examples where illegality can arise from web scraping

  • Using the data collected for commercial purposes, such as compiling and selling it for profit
  • Upload the data in your website
  • Scraping websites where log in data is required, such as social media accounts. Such data is not available to everyone in the web and is therefore considered private.

For the case of businesses, they use web scraping to understand market trends, gain insight into consumer needs, and set better prices. And there is nothing illegal about these intentions.

Using web scraping to monitor competition is not illegal either. Healthy competition between businesses is great for the economy. And you cannot compete with your rival if you do not understand them.

So, if you are planning a project that involves web scraping, there is no need to put a stop to it for fear of illegalities.

What You Need to Know About Web Scraping

Web scraping will provide your business with insights that will take your business forward by providing you with an edge over the competition. However, do give consideration to the effects of your scraping to the website’s performance.

Your technique of scraping data should not harm the website.

Making an excessive amount of requests in a short moment could slow it down and negatively affect its performance in search engines. For this reason, be kind when web scraping. Switch the scraping pattern often to give it the appearance of organic traffic and use a quality proxy.

Take time to read the website’s web crawling policies and go through the user agreement. By following these policies, you reduce the chances of having your IP address banned. It will also prevent your scraper from falling for traps such as honey pots.

Conclusion

If the risk of committing illegality is preventing you from planning a project that involves web scraping, don’t fret about it. Web scraping is not illegal as long as your intentions are good. Stay true to the goal of using the data collected for pricing, market insights, monitoring competition, studying current trends, and understanding customer needs, and you will have nothing to worry about.

Ensure that you only scrape the data available to the public, and play by the rules of the website you are scraping. Make use of proxies and rotate the IP addresses to give your scrapers the look of organic traffic. Most of all, avoid any activity that could potentially harm the website you are scraping. Follow these tips, and you are good to go.

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