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The Ethics of Data Scraping

April 11, 2016Category : Blog
The Ethics of Data Scraping

Data scraping is as old as computer science and data systems. We have been scraping data from various sources for a long time now, although the quantity was negligible. We now have advanced data scraping technologies in place to automate and do this on a large scale. It was only recently that businesses started harvesting its power to drive innovation and leverage their business. Companies have now discovered how it can act as a catalyst in deriving better business decisions.

is data scraping ethical?

Data scraped from the web can even improve the overall customer experience by gaining insights about customers. Sounds like a win-win situation for everyone involved. But the bigger question remains, is web scraping an ethical concept? If you are still wondering if data scraping is ethical in the first place, you have come to the right place as we are about to discuss the same.

There are good and bad aspects to every kind of technology that we humans have ever developed. In fact, it’s not the technology itself but humans who are at fault most of the time when something does more bad than good. Same can be said about data scraping. It is an amazing technology with lots of great purposes where it can be vital. But it can indeed be bad when used for nefarious purposes. Let’s look at the good aspects first.

Good aspects of web scraping:

There are many good functions served by data scraping which are mainly advantageous to businesses and their end users. For one thing, it can improve product intelligence and thus increase the competition in market. Here are some of the best things data scraping can be useful or rather vital for.

It can be used for Data analysis and Visualisation

Data analysis is something that has relevance in every field or industry. Be it E-commerce, finance, IT or even healthcare, data analysis can prove vital everywhere. It can be the backbone of every business decision and affects millions of people in some way. Data analysis is obviously impossible without data, so this is something that would be incomplete without data mining. It is the essential fuel that drives every analysis and data visualization process. When it comes to data analysis, data from multiple sources is essential. This kind of data especially requires high level of technical skills to collect, clean up and organize. Web data scraping can be termed as an essential component of business analysis now that more companies have grown their roots into the internet.

Helps in Research and Development

Consumers have an endless demand for better, faster and innovative products. The development of better products has to start from research. A lot of research will go into recognizing trends, demand and problems with current products available in the market before companies can think about developing them into better ones. Research is an indispensable factor of product development and innovation. And, this research needs huge amounts of data to be realised. Web data scraping has been helping a lot in the improvement of our present day electronic gadgets. Hence, research and development is going to be pointless without data mining.

Can be employed in Market analysis and Price comparison

Businesses are always in need of data. Data helps in shaping a great business strategy no matter how small your company is. Market analysis is how companies learn how to rise above the competition while providing value to the customers. Along with this, price comparison can also be carried out using data scraped from the competitor’s websites. Both of these can help businesses in improving their profits by a large margin.

Bad sides of data scraping

Like we discussed earlier, everything about technology has its dark side. Same applies to data scraping. Data scraping can be used for unethical or even illegal activities by bad people. This doesn’t mean data scraping itself is bad, it only means the people involved are. Here are some of the evil things that can be done with the help of data scraping technology.

Might encourage Plagiarism

Data scraping lets you collect content in any form from all over the internet in one place. It’s not wrong to collect content, but reproducing it anywhere without the permission from its creators is absolutely wrong. Plagiarism is basically copying someone else’s copyrighted work and republishing it as your own. This is not only unethical but illegal as well by the digital millennium copyright act. If a person or company employs data scraping to collect data from various sources and publishes it as their own, this can incur monetary loss for the affected parties. This is an unethical practice where data scraping is involved.

Used for Spamming

Spamming can be termed as one of the most annoying things we have ever come across on the internet. Nobody wants to receive unrelated emails or calls promoting some product or service. Many spammers use web data scraping for collecting email ids and mobile numbers from the internet. They further use the collected contact details to send ads and promotional emails. Data scraping is the easiest way to harvest huge lists of contact details from the web and this makes for another bad aspect of data scraping.

Can be used for Identity theft

Social media profiles and data in them can be scraped using data scraping techniques. People with malicious intentions can do this for identity theft and similar illegal acts. Scraping data for emails, mobile numbers and personal info with the intention of scamming people by identity theft is a rising menace. Unfortunately, data scraping can be employed to carry out such kind of scams.

Ethics of Data scraping

Now that we’ve seen the good and bad things that can be done with the help of data scraping, is data scraping ethical? We think it is totally an ethical concept. Web data scraping is a mechanism to make a computer visit a website automatically and collect some data in the process. Technically, there’s no difference between a computer visiting a website on its own and a human using a computer to visit the website. Besides, data scraping can have positive effects on all parties involved if done the right way. However, there are a few rules to follow. You should always read a site’s Terms of use before attempting data scraping. Some websites might not want you to crawl and extract their data and would indicate this in their robots.txt. You will have to abide by these if you want to play it cool. As long as you follow them, you are doing nothing unethical. Remember, Google is a data scraping engine that every website likes to get crawled by.


Data scraping is a brilliant technology that has the potential to help you make the best business strategies ever tried. With great power comes great responsibility and hence it should be used for the good alone. Tweet this  Data scraping is ethical as long as the scraping bot respects all the rules set by the websites and the scraped data is used with good intentions. If you want to know more about the technical and legal aspects of data scraping, we have it neatly penned down here.

And when you want to acquire data for your business without hassles, talk to us about your requirement.

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