Are web scraping and web crawling legal or illegal?

  • 26/03/2020

Before resolving whether web scraping web crawling are legal in general, let us first define these terms to make sure you understand what we’re talking about.

Web Scraping
: the act of automatically downloading data from a web page and extracting very specific information from it. The extracted information can be stored almost anywhere (database, file, etc.). Web scraping, also known as Web Data Extraction, is an automated way to extract information / content using bots, known as scrapers. Here, the information can be used to replicate on some other website or can be used for data analysis.

Web Crawling: the act of automatically downloading data from a web page, extracting the hyperlinks contained therein and following them. The downloaded data is usually stored in an index or database to facilitate its search. Web crawling, also known as indexing, is used to index information on a web page using bots, also called crawlers. Web Crawlers are basically used by major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

But after all, is it legal or illegal?

Web scraping web crawling are not illegal in themselves. After all, you can scrape or crawl your own website, without any problems.

The problem arises when you scrape or crawl someone else's website, without obtaining prior written permission or disregarding the Terms of Service or Use. You are essentially putting yourself in a vulnerable position.

Just think about it: you are using someone else's bandwidth and are freely retrieving and using data. It is reasonable to think that they may not like it because what you are doing may harm them in some way. Therefore, depending on many factors, they are perfectly free to take legal action against you.

I know what you may be thinking. "Come on! This is ridiculous! Why would they sue me? ” Of course, they can just ignore you. Or they can simply use technical measures to block you. Alternatively, they can send a letter asking you to stop this activity. But technically, there is nothing to stop them from suing you. This is the real problem.

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