After the recent scandal of Facebook on data theft and manipulation and the initiation of GDPR law, you might start wondering whether the use of web crawling and data scraping is even legal or not? Maybe you are getting a customized system built from a software development company and want to get massive amounts of data from the internet to be added to your platform?
You might become hesitant in getting services from companies offering web scraping, and you are not alone in this. Many people are looking for information on the internet that can help them understand if it is legal to scrape data or not.
Well, the answer is not simple, which is why you need to read this guide until the end. We will go in great detail to explain what kind of data scraping is perfectly legal. So let’s gets started:
What is Data Scraping?
The act of downloading the data of a web page and getting specific pieces of information from it is basically data scraping. For instance, you may want to start your own website that streams movies. Now for that, you will have to get data for every movie like its stars, the reviews of people, the short description of the movie, and so on.
Now, if you are streaming hundreds of movies on the website and each movie has several stars, do you think you can gather that much data on your own? No, you will have to go through thousands of movie pages on IMDB and manually gather the data, which is impossible.
This is where the data scraping helps. You can just ask a company offering this service to gather all of this data for you, and they have their own tools and techniques to quickly get everything scraped and processed into usable data.
So is Data Scraping and Web Crawling Legal?
Well, it is legal, but there are some conditions associated with it. If the data is available to the public without any restrictions like special access or permission from the data owner, then it is legal to crawl through it and gather it. However, if the data is private and is specifically done to keep others from accessing it without permission, then obtaining it will be illegal.
Think of it like this; you get your own private WIFI connection that you have protected with a password. This clearly means you don’t want others to access it. However, if someone finds out its password in your personal diary and starts using the WIFI, would you be happy? I am guessing you would be furious because they didn’t take permission from you before using your WIFI.
The same is with the world of the internet. You can access public data and use it like the data on IMDB or the data publicly available on social media platforms like LinkedIn or the data in online directories like YellowPages and so on. Using this data is just like using public WIFI, it’s there for everyone to use.
So Which Kind of Data Scraping is Illegal?
If we take the same example of WIFI, then even though you can use the public WIFI, you are still not allowed to use it to hack someone’s website or do anything illegal. Well, the same is with publically available data. You can get it for your personal use that doesn’t do any damage to anyone. However, when you start using it to hurt someone, you will enter within the boundary of illegal activities.
Even getting the raw data with someone’s personal information like name or phone number and selling it to someone is also illegal because you don’t know how they use it. They might call them, pretend to be from their bank and ask them to share their personal information, which can result in financial loss.
Another example can be using a clone system to make a copy of a website. Now, if you clone a website and get all of its personal data like the content on the homepage, web page, and other areas and paste it on your website, then it will be illegal. This is because that data is not available for the public to use as they please, but to just get information from it.
Over to You:
So to sum things up, using data scraping or data crawling is not illegal on its own, but if you use it to invade someone’s privacy or do harm to others, then it will be illegal. Publically available data can be used as long as it is not harming or invading anyone’s privacy.
So if you need a massive amount of data scrapped, you can always get in touch with a company offering these services and safely have the data mined, processed, and presented to you.