When your work includes the use of online services, you will at some point run into a situation where you will need to scrape data. Depending on the work you are carrying out, it may be a one-off necessity; alternatives you may need to do so as part of an ongoing work process. Whatever scenario best fits your work, you will need to make some ethical considerations before scraping data. There will be moral implications, and you should also be prepared to experience resistance from the owners of the data in question.
It can be compared to a game of cat and mouse that is ongoing, and one where it really is quite difficult to decide who actually has the upper hand.
Know the Best Way to Get the Maximum Out of Your Activities
If you wish to become an efficient scraper, you will need to learn how to conceal your tracks. The same can be said, even when you have no unethical intentions at all. What is a must in this scenario is a good proxy server that is reliable; if you are looking for added flexibility, you should opt for a Selenium rotating proxy server. When you choose such a server, circumventing regional restrictions becomes easier, ensuring you gain access to the full range of content that is being hosted. If you wish to learn more about how selenium proxies work, Click here.
As well as this, it is important that you learn how to develop your own personal tools. Nowadays, this isn’t an option; it’s a requirement if you hope to succeed in this field. The only what to really match your requirements is to use purpose-written, customized tools.
Providing Contact Information
Unless your reasons for scraping are illicit, you should provide the person you are scraping data from with some contact details. Although not a strict requirement, this is generally done in the user agent header as this is the first place someone will generally check when they think someone is attempting to scrape their data. Depending on the system in use, there may, of course, be other and more appropriate ways to leave your details.
In the event that you are contacted, don’t go on the defensive immediately. If your reason for scraping is not malicious, the majority of site owners will actually be OK with what you are doing. However, you may find that some people will have issues with the particular way you are carrying out your scraping. You will also find that it is normally possible to negotiate rate limits and other specifics.
The Fine Line between Scraping & Exploitation
You need to stop and think about how you are getting the data you are after and the methods you are using to do so. If there is no public API, the only way to go about it is scraping. But, there will be times when scraping will force you to rely on exploits that are present in the target system, these being both known and unknown. If this is the case, you can be guaranteed that the owner of the data will be disgruntled, to say the least. It is important that you ask yourself whether you are using the system in question in an intended manner or not. For example, if you try to discover profiles on social networks by incrementally scanning user IDs, this will raise eyebrows. If you really don’t think that you should have access to the data you are trying to scrape, stop and ask yourself what you are doing and why you think you should have the data in the first place.
Try to Be Ethical
When scraping data, you should always try to comply with what is considered to be ethically normal. What does this mean? It means that if you shouldn’t have access to the data in the first place, you shouldn’t be trying to scrape it. What you intend to do with the data is also of significant importance. If it is for your personal library, then that’s fine; this could refer to data on a celebrity you are trying to scrape from social networks. But, everything changes when you wish to use the data for your own personal gain by selling it on to others.
As well as moral considerations, there are also legal considerations. Are you allowed to do this?
It doesn’t matter whether you are pro-scraping or against it; it can be considered illegal, depending on what data you are trying to scrape. Defense in many cases surrounding the legalities of scraping is often brought up by companies that clearly state in their terms of services that scraping of data is not allowed. These explicit clauses that are found in terms of services often state that you are prohibited from carrying out actions that will cause strain on their networks that are unnecessary. Although ground for the argument does exist, you can find an uphill battle when the company in question has a large presence and even more lawyers. When such a company takes you to court, they will undoubtedly win. But worse still is when they purposely drag out the court cases to the point where you are financially ruined.
The bottom line here is that you must always be cautious when carrying out scraping activities and avoid falling under the crosshairs of such organizations. If you do, it could have a life-long negative effect on you and your reputation as well as repercussions for many years to come.
What to Do When you Come Across Unusual Findings
It is not uncommon to come across things that are not normal when scraping data. An example of this would be finding the section of private data of users or admin-only pages. If you do discover something that is out of the ordinary, the ethical thing to do would be to immediately notify the owner of the site so that they can fix the problem.