The Art of Web Scraping Public Data

What is Web Scraping?

Once something is on the internet, it is neither ‘well-protected’ nor safe. There are various tools that users use to achieve the data they require. One such tool is “web scraping,” which is the art of deploying scrapers to the websites the deployers are interested in. The scrapers scrape the desired data for the deployers. When web scrapers scrape data, they leave a digital footprint. This can cause problems if the data scraped is not for public use or used for criminal matters.

However, the extracted data is useless if it’s not in an understandable or desired form. This is where another tool comes in—”parsing”. You may be wondering what is parsing? In literal terms, parsing means breaking down the sentence into easily understood components. To learn more about data parsing, click here.

Process of web scraping

If you want a large amount of data for machine learning, you can’t copy-paste web data. But instead, you need it in a form that is understandable by the machine, meaning it is supposed to be in machine language

Web scraping is a process where automated bots known as ‘scrapers‘ extract desired data from a website. The website data is in the form of HTML codes when scraped, and this unstructured data in HTML format is converted into a structured format in the form of a database or spreadsheets. This easy scraper can replicate the entire website’s content in a short time in a form that can be interpreted, analyzed, and used in various applications according to the requirement. 

Data parsing

Another essential part of web scraping is known as “data parsing“. Before you start wondering what is parsing, it is the tool whose absence makes the extracted data useless. Data parsing is when data is converted into a form that the machine understands, so it is present in the SQL engine. SQL engine is the software responsible for recognizing and interpreting data into a command that can be executed by the hardware and returns the result. For example, a developer writes a code. Data parsers present in the SQL engine interpret this code in a language understood by the hardware, execute it, and return the result.

In the case of web scraping, data parsers come after the scrapers extract data from a website. As the extracted data needs to be readable, it can only be analyzed and ranked. 

Parsers are heavily used in web scraping because the raw HTML we receive isn’t easy to understand. We need the data changed into a format that a person interprets. That might mean generating reports from HTML strings or creating tables to show the most relevant information.

Role of proxies in web scraping

When extracting data, the scrapers also put their security at risk. By using proxies, web scrapers hide their identity while extracting data as they look like regular traffic on a website. 

This makes them especially beneficial if you intend on accessing high-value public data while facing minimum hindrances, then proxies are the tool you need. With proxies, web scraping becomes a lot easier; your scrapers can access a website quite reliably. Make sure that the crawler will neither get detected nor significantly reduce the chances that your spider will get banned or blocked.

Using a proxy enables you to be banned. For those web scrapers who need content based on local geographical location like retailers, bookers, price comparisons, then with proxies, they can easily access similar content.

Web scraping is very much legal as long as the data that scraper wishes to scrap is considered as public data, i.e., there are not any terms and conditions that say otherwise. And the data is not extracted to be sold to any third party for malicious activities like numbers, addresses, personal information, etc. as this is a crime and illegal.

However, for businesses that gather data, public sources for research and analysis like price monitoring websites, ticket booking websites, market researchers, etc. In these cases, web scraping is considered as legal as no harm is done to the data owner. But while scraping data, the terms and conditions of a website must be considered. All websites mention their copyright preference, so if a website has such a policy, it’s only ethical that policy is respected and nothing illegal is done. 

Conclusion

Web scraping is ideal for businesses that rely on gathering extensive data from various websites in a short time. By now, it is pretty clear what parsing is, and without which, the art of web scraping is incomplete. However, when web scraping makes market research easy and reliable, the risk of getting exposed also exists since the more significant the quantity of data and the more critical the scraped data, the more chances of getting exposed exist. When web-scraping bots are on a website, they leave a footprint, but using proxies ensures that your privacy is prioritized.

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Priya Jain

Priya Jain

Priya Jain is a professional copywriter with 8 years of experience. She has an MBA and engineering degree. When she is not writing, you will find her teaching math, spending her day running behind her toddler, and trying new recipes. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.