Data protection and ethical risks in data scraping: Dispelling the myths

Karishma Brahmbhatt and David Smith of Allen & Overy LLP discuss what is allowed in data scraping, and what might catch the regulators’ attention.

Whilst data scraping is not a new phenomenon, a handful of well-publicised cases in recent years have thrust the legal and ethical risks associated with the activity into the spotlight.

Data scraping is an extraction technique by which a computer captures data from outputs created by other programmes. The technique is typically used by businesses as an automated process for retrieving large volumes of data from various sources, including legacy systems, applications and programs, with a view to realising business value from that data.

The two most commonly used types of data scraping are screen scraping and web scraping. Screen scraping involves the scraping of information directly from the user interface of applications. It is commonly used to retrieve data from legacy systems, and does not specifically target websites or seek specific information. On the other hand, web scraping typically involves pulling large volumes of publicly-available structured information from websites, and is usually carried out using software bots.

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