Data Scraping: Protect Your Information From This Questionable Practice

Emma Brown
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Data Scraping: How to Protect Your Information From This Questionable Practice

The internet is an invaluable source of information. However, with the mountains of data available, there’s only so much you can access manually. There had to be a more efficient way to gather and utilize all this material, and technology provided the answer—data scraping.

Today, many businesses use web scraping to collect data from several online sources. Briefly defined, web scraping is an application that allows you to extract website information into your preferred format. Examples of appropriate formats include CSV, HTML, or TXT files.

The benefits of web scraping are obvious. For instance, businesses that need sports stats use web scrapers to quickly gather all the latest data available from reputable sites. This saves them the trouble of having to directly obtain the information themselves.

Although there’s nothing inherently illegal about using web scrapers, some rules still need to be followed. Many businesses hold sensitive material—such as client information—that shouldn’t be allowed to get into the public domain. As such, it’s vital to know how you can protect private data against the malicious use of such applications.

Photographer: John Schnobrich | Source: Unsplash

What Is Data Scraping?

Data scraping—also called spidering or crawling—happens when one computer program gathers another computer program’s information via automation. Web scraping involves the same process, but the computer program gathers information on websites instead. Local or cloud-based web crawlers carry out the scraping process. Typically, web scrapers are fed URLs. The application loads the code for the sites the URLs link to, extracts the data, and then outputs it in the user’s desired format.

Web scrapers are popular because they’re versatile tools that have applications in several industries. For example, a business may use a web scraper to scour the internet for plane ticket prices to show a customer their cheapest options. Another business might collect data about natural resources, then use the information to advise investors. Social media is a common target of web scrapers. Little wonder, as it’s an ideal environment for gathering insights into current trends and public sentiments surrounding certain topics. This can be crucial information for businesses looking to resonate with their customers.

Unfortunately, not all data scraping is benign. It’s also used to gather email addresses and social media data, which are then sold to spammers. Furthermore, data scraping can even be used to steal people’s personal data, which is either sold to third parties or used to commit financial fraud. The illegality of some data scraping practices, unfortunately, doesn’t stop these bad actors from trying their luck.

Is Web Scraping Legal?

Much like a vehicle, the legality of web scraping depends on how it’s used. There is nothing illegal about a web scraper obtaining publicly available data—it’s simply a means of automating a process that could have been done by a human. In fact, the US Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that scraping data that’s already online and in the public arena does not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Further, you likely interact with web scrapers daily, as Google relies on them for its web search functions.

Nevertheless, it is still a crime to use web scrapers to access non-public information. For instance, a web scraper cannot break intellectual property laws. As a result, you should stay away from the proprietary information of other businesses.

Accessing a business’s private data—or its clients’ private data—also constitutes a criminal act. If, for example, the user of a social media site sets sensitive personal information as “private,” it would be a breach of data privacy for a web scraper to retrieve it. There are also ethical considerations. Using web scrapers to collect email addresses for the purpose of spamming isn’t ethical. It’s also a terrible marketing strategy!

Photographer: Jefferson Santos | Source: Unsplash

How to Protect Your Personal Information From Data Scraping?

The power of data scraping and web scraping is clear. It helps individuals and businesses gather material from a wide range of sources quicker than any human could. By now, it should also be apparent that, in the wrong hands, data scraping has the potential to compromise private information. If your business handles the personal data of clients and it’s not adequately protected, this information may be vulnerable to data scraping. Bear in mind that any data security breach would be a devastating blow to your company’s reputation.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect you and your customers from these threats. One of the simplest approaches to preventing data scraping is to limit requests. For instance, ensuring that one IP can’t ping your server too often within a specified timeframe. However, as some sophisticated scrapers can circumvent these methods, it’s important to have other security measures as a backup. By applying CAPTCHAs—quick puzzles that humans can easily bypass—you’ll be able to baffle most bots, keeping your site safe from scrapers.

Making use of images is another good tactic, as scrapers typically have no idea what to do with them. Storing sensitive information in unexpected formats is another way to confuse a data scraper. For example, instead of using the “@” symbol for emails, use “(at)” instead. Though all the above methods will help mitigate risks, data scraping technology is constantly evolving. For this reason, it’s critical that you update your security regularly.

Protect Your Customers With Landline Remover

Many businesses deal with sensitive customer data, including phone numbers. Data scraping may well be necessary to help with sorting and crunching all this information. Although scraping comes with several benefits, it’s essential that you never do anything that might risk customer data being compromised. Landline Remover ensures your customer data is always protected when undertaking these procedures.

In business, text is often the chosen means of communication, thanks to its convenience. Automating this process requires you to store your clients’ phone numbers. However, this tactic is not without its pitfalls. For one, you’ll likely have many landline numbers stored along with your cellphone contacts. And that adds up to lots of wasted texts!

Up to 30% of a company’s text messaging budget can end up being lost on texts to landlines. That’s the equivalent of throwing money down the drain. Surely there’s a better way?

By being able to detect landline numbers, Landline Remover ensures that your text messages are targeted to cellphones alone. In addition to saving you money, Landline Remover is able to handle all your customer data safely and legally.

Contact Landline Remover now to find out how they can help you cut costs and protect your data privacy.