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Data Scraping - Its Meaning, Link To Google’s Latest Action

The usefulness of data scraping has been proven many times already. However, it can have implications for privacy, particularly when personal information is collected without consent or in violation of terms of service. Respecting legal and ethical guidelines and safeguarding data are crucial to mitigate privacy concerns associated with data scraping activities.

Tom Mohamed
Jul 14, 202314441 Shares283159 Views
What role does data scrapinghave in the digital world?
In today’s interconnected digital landscape, information is a valuable resource that fuels countless industries and drives innovation.
Every day, an unfathomable amount of data is generated and made available on the internet, representing a vast repository of knowledge, insights, and opportunities.
However, accessing and organizing this wealth of information can be a daunting task.
That’s where the power of data scraping comes into play.
By harnessing the potential of data scraping, individuals and organizations can unlock a world of untapped potential, transforming raw data into actionable intelligence.

Is Web Scraping Legal? (Legal Analysis)

What Is Data Scraping?

Data scraping is the automated process of extracting large amounts of data from websites.
It involves:
  • using software tools or scripts to access and gather information from web pages, and
  • then storing that data in a structured format for further analysis or use
Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how data scraping typically works:
1. Identification of the target website
The first step is to identify the website or web pages from which you want to extract data. This could be any website that contains relevant information you're interested in.
2. Choosing the scraping tool
Once you’ve identified the target website, you need to select an appropriate scraping tool or library that will enable you to automate the data extraction process.
3. Analyzing the website structure
Before scraping the data, it’s important to understand the structure of the target website.
This involves examining the HTML code of the web pages to identify the specific elements (tags, classes, or IDs) that contain the desired data.
Inspecting the website’s source code or using browser developer tools can help in this process.
4. Writing the scraping code
Once you have a good understanding of the website’s structure, you can start writing the scraping code.
This typically involves using the chosen scraping tool and its associated programming language (e.g., Python) to:
  • navigate through the website
  • locate the desired data elements
  • extract the relevant information
5. Handling anti-scraping measures
Some websites implement measures to prevent or limit scraping activities, such as:
  • IP blocking
  • rate limiting
To overcome these obstacles, additional techniques like using proxies, rotating user agents, or incorporating delays between requests may be necessary.
6. Storing the scraped data
After successfully extracting the data, you need to store it in a suitable format for further use or analysis.
This could involve saving the data in a structured format (e.g., CSV, JSON, or a database).
7. Regular maintenance and legal considerations
It’s important to note that data scraping may raise legal and ethical concerns.
It’s because some websites prohibit or restrict scraping activities through their terms of service.
Therefore, review the website’s policies and consider the legality and ethical implications before proceeding with data scraping.
Additionally, websites frequently update their structure or employ anti-scraping measures. So, periodic maintenance of the scraping code may be necessary to ensure it continues to function properly.
Data scraping can be a powerful tool for various purposes, such as:
  • market research
  • competitive analysis
  • content aggregation
  • price comparison
  • sentiment analysis
However, it’s crucial to conduct scraping activities responsibly and within the bounds of the law and website policies.
Web scraping the metrics of an unknown website, with computer screen showing a line graph and other data
Web scraping the metrics of an unknown website, with computer screen showing a line graph and other data

Types Of Data Scraping

There are several types of data scraping techniques, each suited for different purposes and sources of data.
Here are some common types of data scraping:
a. Web Scraping
This is the most common type of data scraping, which involves extracting data from websites.
It can be done by parsing the HTML or XML code of a web page and extracting relevant information, such as:
imagesstructured data
b. Screen Scraping
Screen scraping is similar to web scraping, but it focuses on extracting data from the user interface of software applications or desktop programs.
It involves capturing data displayed on the screen by:
  • mimicking user interactions
  • directly accessing the application’s underlying code
c. Text Scraping
Text scraping involves extracting specific text data from various sources, such as:
PDF filessocial media posts
It may involve techniques to extract the desired information like:
  • text pattern matching
  • natural language processing (NLP)
  • optical character recognition (OCR)
d. Social Media Scraping
This type of scraping focuses on extracting data from social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.).
It can involve:
  • accessing public APIs provided by these platforms
  • using web scraping techniques to extract data from publicly accessible profiles, posts, comments, or hashtags
e. Image Scraping
This is the process of extracting images from websites or other sources.
To extract images based on specific criteria, it may involve:
  • downloading images from specific URLs
  • using techniques (e.g., web scraping) with image recognition
f. E-commerce Scraping
It involves extracting product data from:
  • online marketplaces
  • e-commerce websites
  • retail platforms
It can include details like:
product namesdescriptions
pricesratings & reviews
g. Real-time Data Scraping
Real-time scraping involves extracting data from constantly updating sources or streaming data feeds.
This could include scraping data from:
financial marketsweather APIs
news websitessocial media live feeds
h. Meta Data Scraping
Meta data scraping involves extracting metadata associated with various types of files (e.g., documents, images, audio files, or videos).
This metadata may include information like:
file namescreation dates
sizestags & geolocation data
While data scraping can be a powerful tool for extracting information, it is essential to:
  • comply with legal and ethical guidelines
  • respect website terms of service
  • ensure the privacy and consent of the data source
A smartphone with the words ‘social media’ on top and six icons of social media apps under it
A smartphone with the words ‘social media’ on top and six icons of social media apps under it

Data Scraping Example

What kind of data do people scrape?
People scrape a wide variety of data from the internet for various purposes. Here are some common types of data that people often scrape:
a. Web content
This includes scraping data from websites, such as:
blog postsreviews
product descriptionsratings
b. Social media data
People scrape social media platforms to collect:
user profileslikes
commentsother social interactions
c. Business listings
Data can be scraped from online directories, yellow pages, or review websites to gather information about businesses, including:
namesphone numbers
addressesratings & reviews
d. Product data
Scraping e-commerce websites allows users to collect product details like names, descriptions, prices, images, and customer reviews for:
  • competitive analysis
  • price monitoring
  • building product catalogs
e. Financial data
Scraping financial websites, stock exchanges, or cryptocurrency exchanges provides access to real-time or historical data about:
  • stocks
  • commodities
  • currencies (including cryptocurrencies). . .
. . . for analysis, trading, or research purposes.
f. News and articles
Data can be scraped from news websites, RSS feeds, or blogs to gather information on:
  • specific topics
  • track trends
  • analyze sentiment
g. Weather data
Scraping weather websites or APIs helps collect:
current weather conditionshistorical climate data
forecastsother meteorological information
h. Academic research
Researchers often scrape data from scholarly articles, journals, or academic databases to collect data for:
  • research
  • analysis
  • data visualization
i. Public data
Government websites often provide access to public records, census data, crime statistics, or other publicly available information that can be scraped for:
  • research
  • analysis
  • data visualization
j. Job postings
For job market analysis or recruitment purposes, scraping job boards or career websites allows users to collect:
job listingssalaries
company informationother details
A desktop screen showing a man using binoculars with the Facebook logo on each of the lens
A desktop screen showing a man using binoculars with the Facebook logo on each of the lens

Data Scraping And Privacy

While data scraping can be a valuable tool for gathering data, it also raises concerns about privacy.
Data scraping can potentially impact privacy in several ways:
a. Collection of personal information
When scraping websites, there is a risk of inadvertently collecting personal information such as:
namesemail addresses
addressesphone numbers
This information might be publicly available on websites, but the act of aggregating and storing it on a large scale without consent can raise privacy concerns.
b. Terms of service violations
Many websites have terms of service or usage agreements that explicitly prohibit scraping.
By scraping data from such sites, individuals or organizations may violate these terms, potentially leading to legal consequences.
c. Publicly available but unintended use
Some websites make data publicly available for browsing purposes but may not intend for it to be collected in bulk or used for other purposes.
Data scraping in large quantities can be seen as exploiting unintended access and may infringe upon the privacy expectations of website owners and users.
d. Impact on user experience
Scraping activities can put a strain on the targeted websites’ servers, potentially leading to degraded performance for regular users.
This can infringe upon the privacy of other users who are affected by slower page load times or other disruptions caused by scraping activities.
Google’s Sissie Hsiao on stage of the Shoreline Amphitheatre in California explaining Bard on the white screen
Google’s Sissie Hsiao on stage of the Shoreline Amphitheatre in California explaining Bard on the white screen

Google And AI Technology

At the 3-day 2018 Google I/O conference (May 8-10) at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, an announcement was made regarding Google Research.
According to TechTarget, Google Research, the company’s research and development department for its artificial intelligence (AI) applications, was rebranded and now called Google AI.
Through Google AI, the company will develop and upgrade its Google products (e.g., Google Search, Google Assistant, Google, Google Maps, etc.) and conduct research work in various fields, including:
  • robotics
  • deep learning
  • machine learning (ML)
Per Cointelegraph, Google recently updated its privacy policy because it now decided to use, whenever it deems suitable, data available in public for its AI-related activities.
Specifically, Google will use, as indicated on its revised privacy policy:
  • “information . . . publicly available online”
  • “other public sources”
In other words, when people upload something online, Google may use itto develop its AI systems.
For its AI data scraping plans, which could compromise people’s personal information, it’s no surprise to learn that Google is now being sued for it.
Reuters reported that on July 11, eight people went to a courthouse in San Francisco and filed a class-action complaint against Google.
In the said lawsuit, based on a copy of the complaint, the plaintiffs enumerated 10 violations allegedly committed by Google.
In a released statement, Ryan Clarkson, the attorney of the plaintiffs, said:
Google does not own the internet . . . our creative works . . . our expressions of our personhood, pictures of our families and children, or anything else simply because we share it online.- Attorney Ryan J. Clarkson
In June 2023, the Malibu-based Clarkson Law Firm sued (same lawsuit) OpenAI, the one co-founded by Elon Musk and behind ChatGPT.

Why is AI Data Scraping Controversial?

Google And Data Collection

Google data collection refers to the process by which Google gathers and stores information about its users and their activities across its various services and platforms.
As a company, Google offers a wide range of products, such as:
GmailGoogle Maps
YouTubeGoogle Classroom
Google collects data from users to:
  • personalize and improve its services
  • deliver targeted advertisements
  • generate insights for business purposes
The types of data collected by Google can include:
a. Personal Information
This includes data provided by users during account creation or while using specific services, such as:
namesphone numbers
email addressesprofile information
b. Search and browsing history
Google tracks and retains a record of the number of search users perform, websites they visit, and the content they interact with.
This data helps Google:
  • improve search results
  • personalize recommendations
  • serve targeted ads
c. Location information
If users enable location services on their devices or use Google Maps, Google can collect data about their precise or approximate location.
This data is used to:
  • offer location-based services
  • improve mapping accuracy
  • provide personalized recommendations
d. Device information
Google collects information about the devices users use to access its services, including the:
device typeunique device identifiers
operating system versionnetwork information
This data helps optimize services for different devices and troubleshoot issues.
e. App and service usage
Google collects data about how users interact with its apps and services.
This includes information, such as:
  • app installations
  • feature usage
  • performance statistics
It helps Google improve user experiences and identify potential issues.
f. Advertisements and purchases
Google collects data related to the ads users interact with, including the ads they view, click on, or make purchases through.
This information is used to tailor ads to users’ interests and measure ad effectiveness.
Google’s data collection practices are governed by its privacy policy, and users have some control over the data collected and how it is used through privacy settings.
However, it’s always advisable to review the privacy policies and settings of the specific Google services you use to understand and manage your data preferences.
According to its website, the latest Google update happened recently and took effect on July 1, 2023. Prior to that, the last time it made updates was on December 15, 2022.
Google logo on a stone sign amidst foliage at Number 111 W. Java Drive in Sunnyvale, California
Google logo on a stone sign amidst foliage at Number 111 W. Java Drive in Sunnyvale, California

People Also Ask

What Is Online Privacy?

Per Winston & Strawn (est. 1853), an international law firm with headquarters in Chicago:
The definition of online privacy is the level of privacy protection an individual has while connected to the Internet.- Winston & Strawn LLP
In addition, computer privacy involves how an individual’s “personal information is used, collected, shared, and stored” on his/her devices (e.g., PC and smartphone) and “while on the Internet.”

What Is Data Scraping Tool?

A data scraping tool is a software application or program designed to extract information or data from:
  • websites
  • databases
  • any other online sources
It automates the process of gathering data by:
  • accessing web pages
  • interpreting the HTML or XML code
  • extracting the desired data points

What Are The Tools For Web Scraping Data Science?

According to Analytics Vidhya, they include:
Web Scraping ToolPrice (per month; in U.S. Dollar)
AvesAPI$50, $125, $500
Diffbot$299, $899$199, $599, $1,099
Octoparse$75, $208
ParseHub$189, $599$29, $99, $249
Scraper API$49, $149, $299, $999
ScrapingBee$49, $99, $249, $599+
Scrapingdog$30, $90, $200
Scrapyfree; with Scrapy Cloud, starts at $9

Final Thoughts

In this age of information overload, data scraping serves as a gateway to unraveling the mysteries and uncovering the hidden gems concealed within the vast digital landscape.
With its ability to extract, gather, and organize data from various online sources, it has become an indispensable tool for businesses, researchers, and developers alike.
Still, while it can be a useful tool, data scraping should be done responsibly and in compliance with relevant laws and website terms of service.
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