We all love reading about the brand we wear, about the celebrities we adore, and the trends that are set. This involves surfing various websites and gathering information from them.
Website scrapping too involves the collection of information from the websites of pages. Though not done consciously, in one way or the other, you are involved in scrapping while surfing the data.
To be precise, website scrapping or screen scrapping is an act done by purpose. Whether you copy a text from a website or page or write web scraping scripts, you are involved in web scraping.
Though we do it unknowingly, the question still remains whether website scraping is legal or not.
Which websites can you scrape?
Internet is a sea of knowledge in every field. You get access to all the real-time and older data that is available on the web. But which website to choose for scraping, to gather the information you want, is a challenge. You can scrape the websites keeping the following things in mind:
- Check if the website allows crawling or not. You can check this with robots.txt. It sets rules for crawlers and scrappers. You can scrap the website if the website does not let you crawl in.
- Some websites allow you to scrape, while in some, this feature is blocked.
Is Web Scraping being Abused?
Do you receive spam emails or messages from websites you have never subscribed to or shared your personal information? If yes, it means that you have been scrapped somewhere, knowingly or unknowingly. You can be scrapped through any of your social media platforms as well.
- Web Scrapped is abused when you try to sneak into personal details of a person through its social media handles.
- You are not aware, but while using social media, many crawling chatbots scrap your personal information. This is malicious activity.
- Facebook recently reported that users’ information was being leaked even though this information was kept private.
- LinkedIn, too, recently suffered a security breach. In this manner, web scrapping has been abused.
Now coming to the most important question,
Is Web scraping illegal?
The legality of web scrapping still needs to be answered. However, based on the nature of the website or page scrapping, whether this is legal or illegal is decided. If found done maliciously, it is termed illegal.
The Internet & Social Law Blog studied in detail the case of hiQ Labs, which won a case against Linked In. It later claimed that Computer Fraud and Abuse Act only prohibits unauthorized access to the users. The judge ruled that since the data on Linked In was available publicly, web scraping from Linked In is permitted.
Not just this, various cases have questioned whether information shared on social media can be accessed or not. Furthermore, questions are also raised on the privacy policies of these websites and social media platforms. This is because they assure complete privacy of their data.
Are Web scrapping and hacking the same?
Web Scrapping is different from hacking in the following manner:
- Though hacking eventually leads to craping of data, website scrapping is different from hacking.
- Web Scraping involves dedicated crawling or scraping tools, unlike hacking.
- Hacking involves unauthorized access; web scrolling only targets data that is visible in the front end.
If done in the right manner, web scraping is not illegal. We need to scrap because:
- You get access to a large amount of data
- It broadens your scope and improves your coding and technical skills.
Therefore, rather than abusing the concept of web scraping, using it for your development is more beneficial.
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