Web Scraping 101: 10 Myths that Everyone Should KnowTuesday, January 19, 2021
Many people have false impressions about web scraping. It is because there are people don’t respect the great work on the internet and use it by stealing the content. Web scraping isn’t illegal by itself, yet the problem comes when people use it without the site owner’s permission and disregard of the ToS (Terms of Service). According to the report, 2% of online revenues can be lost due to the misuse of content through web scraping. Even though web scraping doesn't have a clear law and terms to address its application, it’s encompassed with legal regulations. For example:
- Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
- Violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
- Trespass to Chattel
- Copy right infringement
- Breach of contract
2. Web scraping and web crawling are the same
Web scraping involves specific data extraction on a targeted webpage, for instance, extract data about sales leads, real estate listing and product pricing. In contrast, web crawling is what search engines do. It scans and indexes the whole website along with its internal links. "Crawler" navigates through the web pages without a specific goal.
3. You can scrape any website
It is often the case that people ask for scraping things like email addresses, Facebook posts, or LinkedIn information. According to an article titled "Is web crawling legal?" it is important to note the rules before conduct web scraping:
- Private data that requires username and passcodes can not be scrapped.
- Compliance with the ToS (Terms of Service) which explicitly prohibits the action of web scraping.
- Don’t copy data that is copyrighted.
One person can be prosecuted under several laws. For example, one scraped some confidential information and sold it to a third party disregarding the desist letter sent by the site owner. This person can be prosecuted under the law of Trespass to Chattel, Violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and Misappropriation.
It doesn’t mean that you can't scrape social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. They are friendly to scraping services that follow the provisions of the robots.txt file. For Facebook, you need to get its written permission before conducting the behavior of automated data collection.
4. You need to know how to code
A web scraping tool (data extraction tool) is very useful regarding non-tech professionals like marketers, statisticians, financial consultant, bitcoin investors, researchers, journalists, etc. Octoparse launched a one of a kind feature - web scraping templates that are preformatted scrapers that cover over 14 categories on over 30 websites including Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Instagram and more. All you have to do is to enter the keywords/URLs at the parameter without any complex task configuration. Web scraping with Python is time-consuming. On the other side, a web scraping template is efficient and convenient to capture the data you need.
5. You can use scraped data for anything
It is perfectly legal if you scrape data from websites for public consumption and use it for analysis. However, it is not legal if you scrape confidential information for profit. For example, scraping private contact information without permission, and sell them to a 3rd party for profit is illegal. Besides, repackaging scraped content as your own without citing the source is not ethical as well. You should follow the idea of no spamming, no plagiarism, or any fraudulent use of data is prohibited according to the law.
6. A web scraper is versatile
Maybe you’ve experienced particular websites that change their layouts or structure once in a while. Don’t get frustrated when you come across such websites that your scraper fails to read for the second time. There are many reasons. It isn’t necessarily triggered by identifying you as a suspicious bot. It also may be caused by different geo-locations or machine access. In these cases, it is normal for a web scraper to fail to parse the website before we set the adjustment.
7. You can scrape at a fast speed
You may have seen scraper ads saying how speedy their crawlers are. It does sound good as they tell you they can collect data in seconds. However, you are the lawbreaker who will be prosecuted if damages are caused. It is because a scalable data request at a fast speed will overload a web server which might lead to a server crash. In this case, the person is responsible for the damage under the law of “trespass to chattels” law (Dryer and Stockton 2013). If you are not sure whether the website is scrapable or not, please ask the web scraping service provider. Octoparse is a responsible web scraping service provider who places clients’ satisfaction in the first place. It is crucial for Octoparse to help our clients get the problem solved and to be successful.
API is like a channel to send your data request to a web server and get desired data. API will return the data in JSON format over the HTTP protocol. For example, Facebook API, Twitter API, and Instagram API. However, it doesn’t mean you can get any data you ask for. Web scraping can visualize the process as it allows you to interact with the websites. Octoparse has web scraping templates. It is even more convenient for non-tech professionals to extract data by filling out the parameters with keywords/URLs.
9. The scraped data only works for our business after being cleaned and analyzed
Many data integration platforms can help visualize and analyze the data. In comparison, it looks like data scraping doesn’t have a direct impact on business decision making. Web scraping indeed extracts raw data of the webpage that needs to be processed to gain insights like sentiment analysis. However, some raw data can be extremely valuable in the hands of gold miners.
With Octoparse Google Search web scraping template to search for an organic search result, you can extract information including the titles and meta descriptions about your competitors to determine your SEO strategies; For retail industries, web scraping can be used to monitor product pricing and distributions. For example, Amazon may crawl Flipkart and Walmart under the "Electronic" catalog to assess the performance of electronic items.
10. Web scraping can only be used in business
Web scraping is widely used in various fields besides lead generation, price monitoring, price tracking, market analysis for business. Students can also leverage a Google scholar web scraping template to conduct paper research. Realtors are able to conduct housing research and predict the housing market. You will be able to find Youtube influencers or Twitter evangelists to promote your brand or your own news aggregation that covers the only topics you want by scraping news media and RSS feeds.
Ashley is a data enthusiast and passionate blogger with hands-on experience in web scraping. She focuses on capturing web data and analyzing in a way that empowers companies and businesses with actionable insights. Read her blog here to discover practical tips and applications on web data extraction
Dryer, A.J., and Stockton, J. 2013. "Internet 'Data Scraping': A Primer for Counseling Clients," New York Law Journal. Retrieved from https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/almID/1202610687621