No doubt, web scraping is a very useful tool, you can access any amount of data from any website. For this reason, some website owners have opted to hide their content and data behind login screens. This practice prevents most web scrapers from collecting the required data legally because they cannot log in to gain access, without accepting websites specific terms and conditions which usually prohibits use of automation to scrape data.
In this article, I’ll take you through how to collect data legally from a website that requires login.
There are couple of things you need to check on a website before you can legally start data collection, especially if the website requires you to log in first. By insisting on logging in first, website owners typically want you to accept their terms and conditions. Terms and conditions are used interchangeably with terms of service or disclaimers. Jut to be precise, there’s no provision in the law requiring websites to have this agreement. The law only requires websites to have privacy policies if the website collects personal data from users—things like email addresses, names, shipping addresses, and so on. Now, terms and conditions or terms of service agreement are rules that users must agree to follow to use a service on a website.
Most website’s terms prohibit automation tools or scripts running against their website if you have to login to the website
Most of us are quick to click “I agree” to terms and conditions we haven’t even read. While this may be harmless when all you are looking for is publicly available data, some website’s terms prohibit automation tools or scripts running against their website. Meaning using automation tools on their website might land you in trouble. Therefore, it’s essential to go through terms and conditions one by one very carefully before using any of your web scraping tools. On the brighter side, some website’s terms and conditions do not expressly prohibit data collection through web scraping tools, meaning you might be able to collect the data you need in an automated way.
What happens if the website’s terms and conditions say you cannot perform any automation or run any web crawling tool? Well, don’t worry. There are still a couple of ways you can collect the data you want, especially if you are looking for public knowledge or publicly available information. After all, it is legal to scrape publicly available data, at least according to the US Court of Appeal ruling made late last year. The verdict was historic in many ways, especially in this era of data science. It showed that any publicly available data not copyrighted is up for grabs.
It is legal to scrape publicly available data, at least according to the US Court of Appeal ruling made late last year
Now, some data is already public knowledge or public information. For instance, most of the real estate listings are public knowledge because you can access the listings not necessarily from the website that it’s listed. Another perfect example is product pricing. You can get pricing of a product from other sources that do not require you to login or accept their website’s terms of service.
The first obvious method of collecting this data is doing it manually by copy-pasting into a spreadsheet. Of course, you don’t need to do all this by yourself because it’s a time-consuming job, but you can always find a way around it. For instance, you can always outsource. There are many outsourcing companies specializing in web scraping services. For example, scraping solutions has a cloud worker network that can collect public data from websites manually. Remember, we collect data even from websites that require login with 24-hour turnaround time.
Another technique to use is utilizing search engines like google to collect the data you want, without necessarily logging into their websites. We all know that search engines such as Google use algorithmic processes to determine what pages we access. In other words, they use web crawlers to give us the answers we ask. So, their work is to discover, understand, and organize the internet’s content to offer the most relevant results to the questions we search. Now, if you are planning to use this technique, you’ve got to be creative about how you enter your search terms to enable you to get the exact information you are looking for. Again, this is something we can help with at Scraping Solutions with fast turn around times. We help our clients with data collection without violating the terms and conditions of a specific website.
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