Ethical web scraping : some non-objectionable best practices

Although used before, web scraping has become more and more common as a practice adopted by individuals and companies specializing in e-commerce. It allows the automatic collection and analysis of personal data on websites and social networks. Note that web scraping is now highly regulated by standards and rules in each country to prevent its abusive and illegal use. Do you want to adopt web harvesting services? Here are some of the recommended best practices in the field.

Learn more about web scraping

Web scraping is a practice that allows you to extract and collect interesting information about online consumers. This is usually done from the websites they visit for their daily activities. Indeed, web scraping services make it possible to recover the HTML code of a web page. 

This code is then used to collect specific data like images, links and text. Thanks to web scraping services, you can automate the process of extracting information from several websites. This will allow you to efficiently and quickly collect a large amount of data. 

Are you a researcher, an individual or do you own a company specializing in e-commerce? You can opt for web scraping services thanks to this very valuable tool. You also have, for example, other tools such as the API (Application Programming Interface) which offer solutions for automating data extraction. 

If you use the API with web scraping, it allows you to programmatically extract data from selected websites. You will therefore be able to access the information on the websites in a structured and appropriate manner.

Ethical web scraping : some of the best practices to adopt

Over time, the need for sources of information increases for individuals and businesses online. Unfortunately, many websites do not have APIs allowing developers to directly access the data they are looking for. 

It is therefore now important that developers determine how to best take advantage of web scraping services. To ensure ethical web scraping, here are some of the best practices you can adopt : 

APIs (generally considered the right solution) 

In general, you notice that some websites have their own APIs. These are designed to allow you to collect data without doing the harvesting yourself. In short, the scraping will be done by respecting the rules and standards established on the websites. By opting for APIs, you can do without web scraping solutions.

Respecting Robots.txt files 

The Robots.txt file (Robots Exclusion Standard) is used to tell the web browsing software where it can go or not on the website. It is part of the Robot Exclusion Protocol (REP). This is a group of web standards set up to ensure the regulation of the path that robots take on websites.

Reading the general conditions 

This is the solution adopted by those responsible for the website to explain the rules established on the site. Please remember that these rules are put in place for a specific reason. You must therefore make sure to read them carefully before continuing.

Abuse must be avoided 

In some cases, scraping can be very brutal for the server. If the scraping is aggressive, it can lead to functionality issues and cause a poor user experience. So be sure to do your web scraping at times other than peak times. Also, make sure to distribute the requests well during the process. This will prevent the site manager from taking your web scraping for hacking.

The request for permission 

Doing things while adopting a certain human courtesy makes things much easier for you. If you want something, ask politely. Even if you think you will be able to get what you are looking for free, it will be better for you to apply first. You must always keep one important thing in mind : what does not belong to you cannot be easily obtained.

What are the consequences of web scraping on websites ?

Although widely adopted today for its benefits, web scraping can have various consequences on websites if it is misused : 

  • site performance can be negatively impacted by massive requests. This is a method used by some hackers to crash websites ; 
  • robots (except those from search engines) alone represent more than 26% of internet traffic ; 
  • your competitors could visit your pages to collect your personals informations. They will thus be informed about potential new customers and partnerships. They will also know about your products and services ; 
  • your private data may also be subject to scraping by your competitors. They can then create alternatives to your products or services and reduce demand for your offers ; 
  • even if your content is protected by copyright, it could be copied and used without reference. This can cause you a very significant loss of income in the long run.

If you want to adopt web scraping, the ideal would be to do it in an appropriate way to avoid facing certain unpleasant situations. This is the reason for these good practices. Also remember to protect your websites from this practice in order to avoid facing various consequences.