The virtual world stores a tremendous amount of data. It could be product lists and prices, statistics for sports or news, business contacts, everything internet data-related is there. If you want to access this information, you will need to utilise tools to get the job done faster. Web scraping can be used for any publicly open website that doesn’t have an Application Programming Interface (API) or does have an API but provides only limited access to data. This article will focus on the definition of web scraping, types and uses, tools, prevention, and target industries.
Table of Contents
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping, also known as web data extraction, data scraping, screen scraping, or web harvesting technique, is a technique for extracting data from the internet. As its name suggests, Web scraping is a means of scraping data from websites in an automated manner. Scrapers collect largely unstructured data in HTML, which is then turned into structured data in a tabular database to be used for a variety of reasons. Web scraping employs automated technologies to collect as much information as possible as quickly as feasible, unlike the traditional method of copying and pasting data from a website. The online scraping program will load websites for you based on your requirements. With just a click of the tool, data information from the website can be easily saved to a file on your computer.
In the process of web scraping, it undergoes two parts: the crawler and scraper. The crawler is an automated type of bot that browses and indexes the content in the World Wide Web following specific data required. On the other hand, a scraper is a tool that extracts the data from particular sites or data that a user wants. The more accurate and narrow the information needed by the user, the faster the scraper gathers the required information.
Web Data Scraping Process
- Search engine crawlers identify the target websites
- Gather the URLs of the pages from which you wish to gather data.
- Request these URLs to obtain the page’s HTML.
- Locators can be used to locate data in HTML.
- Save the information in a spreadsheet, CSV file, or other structured formats.
Is Web Scraping Legal?
At some point, you might already think that web scraping is illegal since it’s defined as gathering information from websites online. However, it was also included in the definition of getting data from public domains. Web scraping is done ethically as long as public property data is collected from these sites. If the said site wishes to block web scrapers, they can employ techniques such as Captcha forms and IP banning. Web scraping has a wrong impression of stealing data which arose because of scrapers who disregards privacy rights and scrape without the knowledge of the site’s owner. Although web scraping doesn’t have a specific law, it’s still covered by legal regulations such as:
- Copyright Infringement
- Breach of Contract
- Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) Violation 
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)Violation 
- Trespass to Chattel
Forms of Web Scraping
Content Scraping is a form of cyber theft wherein advantageous products and services relying on the contents of scraped sites are replicated by the attacker.
Price Scraping is a perpetrator that usually launches scrapers to inspect their competitors’ business databases. Accessing information such as pricing, sales, and unreleased products will give them an advantage. There is a high chance that the scraped websites experience customer and revenue losses. This frequently occurs in industries with comparable products and prices.
Uses of Web Scraping
- Price Monitoring– web scraping is used in eCommerce industries to extract product data from their businesses and competitors’ products. It also helps in innovating pricing strategies so they can obtain maximum revenue.
- Real Estate Listing Scraping– web data extraction is also used to get property, agent, and owner details. An API automatically generates most listings on real estate websites.
- Market Research– companies utilise high-quality scraped data to analyse customer trends and possible future business decisions.
- Lead Generation– web scraping is used by organisations to create a list of contact details and information of potential clients or customers. They can send a bulk of promotional and marketing emails or SMS to listed people. This is usually done by businesses that established their online presence to generate sales.
- News and Content Monitoring– some big companies posted on news sites almost daily use web scraping to provide detailed reports about their businesses.
How Can You Prevent Web Scraping Attacks?
You cannot hide your presence online just because web scrapers threaten you. If you put off important information from your website, the attackers will find another way to find it. Stay competitive but protect what yours by doing the following:
- Rate Limiting the maximum number of IP address requests can’t ping your server too many times and also limits the amount of data scraping that can occur within a specified timeframe.
- Use captcha for high-volume requesters- it has been proven for many years now how captchas aid websites in protecting themselves from bots. However, they no longer work because a higher technology of artificial intelligence is deployed by scrapers convincing websites that they’re human. Creating a captcha challenge too complex for a computer to surmount lessens the possibility of unlawful data scraping. You must note that the constant Captcha challenge can also negatively impact the user experience.
- Use images- embedding sensitive data inside images rather than plain text to avoid content scraping. The tools are usually designed to analyse words, quickly spotted in an HTML source, not pictures.
Web scraping is not entirely safe, but it’s legal unless the owner’s permission is skipped. There are always positive and negative impacts in using techniques online. Although web scraping is a big help to many, it’s also harmful to scraped websites; hence, it’s necessary to protect your websites from highly technical scraping tools. Whether you’re a data extractor for work purposes or the website owner yourself, it’s better to educate yourself regarding this type of activity online because we may not know. Still, web scraping can be an essential technique in the future.