Have you ever tried to google web crawling or scraping? If you have, then you’ve probably noticed that one of the most searched questions is: Is web crawling legal?
You’ve spent a lot of time investigating what do you need to know in order to implement this, how to do it, what are the benefits, and so on. You have everything pretty much clear until now, but you can’t help going back to the question of all questions — is it worth doing it if you aren’t sure that it’s legal?
Although web crawling and scraping are as old as data systems it seems that some aspects of it are still considered a bit mysterious. The techniques used for data crawling and scraping evolved over time and nowadays this process can be done completely automatedly and on a large scale. The power of these techniques was soon enough discovered by many companies who’ve understood that they can use it for making better business decisions.
A few months ago, the US court said that scraping a site without permission isn’t illegal. But if it’s such a win-win situation, then why so many people still aren’t sure of its legality? Don’t worry, we’re about to discuss the same!
But before that, let’s revisit the basics.
What is web data extraction?
To put it very simple, web crawlers and web scrapers are tools known by many other names, such as spiders, bots, robots, etc. That pretty much sums up what they do — extract data from a targeted website. This process allows companies to obtain all publicly available information from any website. You can perform this in your own company, as an in-house solution, or you can also find another company to do it for you.
We will dedicate one of the next posts to this — is it better to have an in-house solution, or to outsource it?
But, for now, since web crawling is an automated process, you don’t need to know much about it (if you aren’t a developer) but you should be informed about the legal aspects of it.
Good sides of web crawling
Quite predictably, when it comes to tech improvements, there’s always an ongoing debate about the pros and cons. We’re gonna go through some of the best ways that you can use web crawling without having any legal consequences.
1. Helps in Data Analysis
Having the right and timely data is the backbone of every business. Regardless of the industry that you’re a part of you can’t expect some improvement if you don’t have the right data. This is especially important in eCommerce where changes in prices and products are happening on a daily basis.
Since data analysis obviously wouldn’t be able without having the data, and especially the large amount of it, web crawling is precious. In case you are interested in how Google Search organizes information, you can always find relevant and up-to-date facts here. With so many new websites appearing every day, it would be impossible to track all the changes manually, so with web crawling the whole process becomes faster and more precise. In that way, companies can focus more on analyzing the data instead of wasting time in collecting it.
2. Get to know your customers better
When you’re surrounded by fierce competition, you need to stay on top of your game by providing customers with the things that they’re looking for. But then again, how can you do this if you don’t know what the customers want? Well, web crawling and scraping are just made for this.
You’ll be able to spot trends, problems, the demand for certain products even before then your competitors do. With the data provided by web crawlers, you’ll be able to do the research and get to know your customers better. Every product development action needs to start with research, so make sure you don’t skip this step. And don’t worry, this kind of web crawling is completely legal since the websites are publicly available.
3. Make price comparisons and see how do you stand on the market
We hope that you’re already aware of how important it is to set the right pricing strategy, regardless of how small your business is. Setting the right price is not just about defining the price that you want, but to make a comparison with other competitors, to have an insight into how they’re doing it. Therefore, it can’t be done randomly, but instead very precise.
For every company, the first step should always be conducting market research. This way they’ll learn how to rise above the competition — what are they doing right, and where they have room for improvement. As you can see, along with doing market research, data provided by web crawlers is also going to help you with understanding how well do you stand on the market.
By doing all of this you can become overwhelmed. It’s not easy at all to first crawl all the relevant websites, and then on top of that, to do price comparisons as well. Luckily, there are companies who have recognized on time that businesses will need help with performing this task. One of the tools whose help you can use is Price2Spy.
Bad sides of web crawling
So far we’ve covered only the good aspects of web crawling which are at the same time completely legal. But, as it usually is with technology, there are ways of usage that can harm other users. They are usually illegal as well, so not only that your actions wouldn’t be so ethical, but you can also get seriously penalized for them. So let’s discuss what should you avoid doing when it comes to web crawling.
Plagiarism, or presenting someone else’s content as your own, is one of the illegal ways to use web crawling. As we said, web scraping and crawling means collecting information from all over the internet. But, there is a difference between collecting information to make some conclusions out of it, and to use specific content to then represent it as your own. It’s nice to get some useful ideas from your competitor’s work, but Fairplay is always very appreciated.
2. Identity theft
This is closely connected to the previous point mentioned. Using web crawling to obtain information from social media with the intention to steal someone’s identity is a very serious transgression. Unfortunately, there are people with evil intentions who are using web crawling for such frauds.
In comparison with the previous two cases, spamming is not illegal, but we’ll all agree that it’s one of the most irritating things happening online. No one likes it when their inbox is full of ads and promotions from brands that they aren’t even interested in. But, web crawling can be used for these purposes too — you will obtain a large list of contacts from the web, but not all of them are relevant to your business.
As you can see, web crawling itself it’s not illegal, so there is no need to worry. However, you should pay attention to how you will use the gathered information. If you follow the rules, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this technique — you can only benefit from it. It will provide you with great power and endless possibilities for improving your business. Therefore, use it with good intentions, and there will be no reason to worry.
Since we understand that the process of web crawling can be tiring, and confusing at times, it’s always recommended to use some help if you don’t feel comfortable by doing it on your own. We invite you to test our services during a 30-day free trial and see by yourself all the benefits that web crawling can bring to your business.