Is Data | Web Scraping Legal? An Ethical Scraping Guide for Beginners

Explore the essentials of web scraping with our beginner's guide. Learn the legalities and ethical considerations behind data scraping from social media, e-commerce sites, and more. Discover how to navigate GDPR, CCPA, and ensure your scraping activities remain compliant and beneficial.

Is Data | Web Scraping Legal? An Ethical Scraping Guide for Beginners
Is Data | Web Scraping Legal?

Data or web scraping is simply copying any information on a particular platform and paste into another place such as an Excel table. The scraping action is handled by software or bots called “scrapers”.

The common platforms that are scraped by marketers, data scientists, and business owners are;

  • Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok
  • E-commerce websites such as Amazon
  • Real estate websites
  • Job boardings
  • Search engines such as Google, Bing

This blog aims to provide guidance for ethical scraping practices, and also discuss the legal landscape of web scraping.  

Firstly, let’s talk about the misconceptions of data scraping such as web scraping is stealing information or web scraping is hacking. Web scraping is an automated process of the actions that a legitimate human would do on a website, which is not hacking. 

Secondly, as long as you are scraping publicly available information on the web, yes, data (web) scraping is legal. But, the resulting scraped data should not;

  • Used for any harmful actions or directly harm the scraped website
  • Against the data protection laws and regulations (GDPR, CCPA). 
In short, as long as publicly available data is scraped and not used for harmful purposes, gathering data such as product prices, reviews, locations, and open social media posts is all in the safe zone. 
How to Make Ethical Scraping? What Should We Careful For?

How to Make Ethical Scraping? What Should We Careful For?

Although most of the misconceptions you may heard about web scraping are most likely false, you still need to be careful about your actions. Note that if you are scraping for your aims or academic purposes, it would be easier for you than those doing scraping for a business. 

For especially business purposes, you need to be cautious about which platform you are scraping and what data is scraped. Determining which data protection regulation to adhere to, such as GDPR, CCPA, or another, can be straightforward but requires consideration of several factors. If your operations are based in the European Union (EU), you engage in business within the EU, or you aim to collect data from individuals residing in the EU, then the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is applicable due to its comprehensive scope. Conversely, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is specific to entities operating in California and to the state's residents, serving as an example of the United States' approach to privacy legislation. Regardless of your location, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with and follow the privacy laws relevant to your region.