Precautions Needed to Ensure Success in Web Scraping
Special precautions should be taken when deploying a web scraper to crawl through the internet and scrape data. This is to ensure fluidity in your work as well as maintaining the security of the one who is extracting data to build an extensive database. The digital footprint of their web scraper can cause numerous problems for the individual if they are not careful. There are chances of a possible ban on the user’s IP address by Google.
The recommended practice is to employ the use of proxies before the deployment of web scrapers. The best proxy for web scrapers is cURL, but what does cURL do? The command-line tool, cURL, is used to send or get data while using URL syntax. Since cURL also supports HTTPS, therefore it performs SSL certificate validation whenever the HTTPS protocol is mentioned.
Why proxies are the best
Proxy masks the user’s IP address so that website traffic scanning plugins and other web scrapers are unable to trace the user. Proxies operate as a bridge between the user and the internet. The request is initiated by the user and is received by the proxy server, which makes it on the user’s behalf on the target website with its unique IP address. The website produces the required results and sends them to the proxy server. These results are simply forwarded to the user by the proxy server.
This is an automated and anonymous operation as the user’s IP address is never involved anywhere. Unique IP addresses provided by the proxy server are considered as the golden ticket to roam freely all over the internet. If the user deploys a web scraper through proxies, then the scraper is also able to crawl through every website anonymously and many websites will not be able to determine its origin. As a result, the scraper will not be blocked or flagged as a scraper.
The key to surviving in the complex world of web scraping is to stay anonymous throughout your career as a web scraper. There have been cases where the scraper forgot to mask their IP address and was not only blocked on the website but also flagged as a web scraper. This is bad because once flagged, your IP address can be reported to Google which will also get the IP address banned from its search engine.
Find the right headless browser
Apart from using a cURL proxy, the next precautionary step is to use a headless browser. This type of browser can only be used as a Command-Line Interface and is perfect for web scrapers. While using a headless browser, a scraper is able to crawl through the internet more fluidly than it would do on a normal browser.
Websites usually prohibit web scrapers from accessing their websites and extracting information by adding a GUI-based security check. Headless browsers minus this step as there is no GUI involved. Web scrapers naturally dive into the website’s native HTML code and retrieve the required information without any problems.
Never leave the ethical side
The last precautionary step is to stay ethical. While scraping data, sometimes certain types of sensitive information are also extracted from websites such as passwords, usernames, credit card information, etc. Data scrapers should stay on the ethical side and not monetize this information for personal gains.
These small chunks of sensitive information can be stitched to form a complete personality profile that can be adopted by people. Even though web scraping is legal, impersonating someone is a crime and can bring severe consequences. Therefore, the recommended step to follow if sensitive information is gathered is to delete it or simply, not even think of monetizing it.
Other information like product ratings or price comparisons can be easily monetized with high returns. There are certain individuals or businesses who want scraped databases to conduct research and analysis. They pay high sums for this data as they do not want to scrape it themselves and they have the resources to either buy it from someone or hire someone who has only one purpose, that is to scrape data.
Web scraping as a career
If a user is an expert in scraping data from the web, businesses can hire them permanently as they often require updated data, either daily or weekly depending on the nature of their business. Tech giants also work on scraping data for the betterment of their business and strengthening their revenue streams.
Therefore, web scraping is an expert career option as there are limited individuals that are able to web scrape for the betterment of society. Thinking on these lines will also reward the individual at some point in time as the user chooses morality instead of monetization. Even if the user decides to monetize it, sensitive information is usually worth no more than 2 USD.
If a person chooses web scraping as a career choice, then abiding by these precautions is a must. Using a cURL proxy, a headless browser and staying ethical is the best practice for playing it safe for a better future in web scraping. Also, web scraping is only legal if the scraper uses publicly available information to build their database. Otherwise, legal action can be initiated against the scraper.
Proxies can mask the user’s IP address so that it is not traced, or blocked, or flagged as a scraper and then blocked by Google’s search engine. Web crawlers need a GUI-free environment to operate, so deploying them on a headless browser lets them freely roam around the internet.