An Ethical Approach to Web Scraping

Web scraping and data mining are necessary tools that help us collect and understand information on the internet. We extract and utilize data collection for many tasks. Companies build data analysis to organize extracted chunks of information to outsmart the competition, and simple use gathered data for personal projects.

Once the big tech companies proved that data is our most important resource, businesses started going out of their way to use web scraping. Retailers scrape competitors to understand the market and create the best deals. Website owners also collect data to better understand their traffic and the traffic of more successful pages to improve search engine optimization (SEO).

Public data scraping is legal, and anyone with a good scraping bot and/or shallow programming knowledge can parse the HTML of a page. However, the simplicity of data extraction and a lack of mutual understanding leads to irresponsible decisions by both scrapers and recipients.

Both individuals and businesses must be ethical not only in the way they use data but also in how they gather it. Let’s discuss a lack of an ethical approach to web scraping and what can be done about it.

How do Scrapers Avoid Unreasonable Bans?

To avoid scraping on their websites, owners put up protections that complicate the extraction of public data. Most of them see data collection as a threat to their web page and even business. By putting up unreasonable defenses and blocking legitimate scrapers, they end up hurting the website’s traffic.

As a response to these unfair conditions, data scrapers need a safety net to avoid IP bans. Proxies are great tools that hide our identity and ensure safe browsing. A scraper can choose between a dedicated proxy for one user or pick shared proxies. With the help of these IP pools, you’ll be able to stop worrying about IP bans and enjoy much more efficient scraping.

Not all scraping is evil, but even ethical collectors often still need to use a proxy. In this case, shared proxies are a good choice if you want to get the job done and save money.

How to Be An Ethical Scraper?

Although nobody is obliged to follow these rules, finding an ethical agreement can bring order and other benefits into the world of scraping. Let’s use our common sense to make data collection a pleasant experience for everyone.

If you believe your scraping goals are fair and reasonable, make sure to send a User-Agent string and a way for a web owner to contact you. Cooperation is the best way to get mutual benefits.

That being said, beginner scrapers often try to squeeze the most out of efficient web scraping bots. This results in an unreasonable data request rate – an instant red flag for website owners. Too many requests can slow down the website and imitate a DDoS attack. To protect from these threats, owners use rate-limiting. It reduces the toll on servers and helps identify harmful scrapers and ban them. Before collecting data, make sure to set a reasonable rate of requests for efficient data extraction without straining the website.

However, some websites can set a very low rate limit and ban users that exceed that limit. To avoid these obstacles, use web scrapers in unison with private residential proxies or cheaper shared proxies to save money.

Before scraping a chosen website, do your research and look for a public API. A lot of websites give out public data and even do so willingly to avoid traffic from bots. If a public API gives the data you need, do not scrape the website.

Make sure to collect only the public data you need. Treating the website with respect is the main goal of ethical scraping. However, even if you think your request for public data is justified, use shared proxies to avoid punishment from unreasonable owners.

Why Should You be an Ethical Website Owner?

Contrary to the popular belief, some website owners can also benefit from web scraping. Reaching out and communicating with potential scrapers instead of pulling out the ban hammer. Let’s talk about why being an ethical web page owner is worth it.

Giving access to good-willed scrapers without ruining the website’s performance may have long-term benefits. With jolly cooperation, you’ll expand the reach of your public data, and they may help you generate real traffic. If scrapers are using shared proxies, there will be no end to automated data extraction, but establishing communication can be advantageous for both sides.

If you do not want scrapers to take a toll on the performance of your website, try to add public APIs to eliminate the need for scraping. By granting access to useful public data, you not only help others but also help yourself. When there is no need to use scraping bots on your website, it becomes much easier to monitor real user traffic. Understanding their behavior is important for the growth of your web page.

When both sides respect ethical standards, web scraping starts shedding its disadvantages, and everyone benefits from a free flow of public data. That being said, we still recommend using private or shared proxies to ensure scraper’s safety.