Web Data Collection: Busting 5 Myths Everyone Should Know! | VanillaMore

(Sponsored Feature) Waiting for data is boring. Businesses of all kinds, especially consumer-facing brands that need to move quickly in their market and react to customer changes, are tired of waiting, says Ron Kol, CTO at Light data. That’s why public web data harvesting, perhaps better known as public web scraping, has become a compelling strategic move. It helps organizations stay competitive in an essentially volatile market, where one market action triggers another, then another, and so on. Real-time data can answer many questions senior executives have about their future earnings. However, this vast and expansive field carries more than a few myths about how it works, why it matters, and who it benefits.

Before continuing, it is important to note and keep in mind that web scraping is an essential real-time resource that contributes to the success of an organization. Some people still think the industry has ambiguous boundaries, but given how quickly it is growing and expanding, it’s important to dispel some of the myths that have been linked to it recently.

Myth #1: Harvesting, picking up, scratching, everything is illegal… false!

Let’s put this one to bed, public web scraping isn’t illegal, period. The website is within the limits established by law as long as it is freely available and not behind a paywall or login type portal. In fact, a recent US federal court judgment in the hiQ/LinkedIn case equates cases of public online scraping with window shopping.

Additionally, startups, SMBs, and large corporations all participate in online public data collection to monitor the strategic choices and market trends of their rivals, as well as to conduct new market research on their own data. The main objective is to find new avenues of innovation and growth while ensuring that an organization does not miss any opportunity that will help it to be more successful.

As with all processes, it is essential that companies adhere to compliance regulations, and if their public web scraping is outsourced, they should always work with their data collection provider to ensure that all operations are legal and ethical. . For the avoidance of doubt, companies should work with vendors to understand what can and cannot be collected, both legally and ethically.

We have a moral obligation to ensure that the data we collect is moral and promotes the greater good because there are no regulations in this area. If not, they must re-evaluate their plans. It would be immoral and also illegal to do otherwise.

Myth #2: Web scraping hurts businesses and makes it harder to compete.

Another myth busted! Totally false, in fact, quite the contrary. Public web data collection, or web scraping, provides the transparency anyone needs when accessing the Internet. It allows all market players to compete openly by providing accurate market research insights. For example, if company A wants to implement its own pricing strategy, it obviously needs to know about special offers or prices from one of its major competitors, let’s call it company B.

Previously, Company A sent out “mystery shoppers” who manually noted Company B’s offers and prices and adjusted theirs accordingly to make them more appealing to consumers. Today, our shopping ecosystem has clearly gone digital, and these “mystery shoppers” have simply turned to online data collection, which provides companies with the information they need to decide on their pricing strategy. or their special offers. Collecting data online ensures that businesses can compete effectively and continue to attract their target customers.

The ability to compete openly benefits businesses, delivering better price deals, new products, and an improved shopping experience that benefits consumer communities. Collecting data online encourages transparency of information and advances an openly competitive economy, and you can’t really pretend otherwise.

Myth #3: Question marks surround the ethical nature of web data collection

Let’s look at the fact that all data in the public domain can be freely accessible, it’s obvious. However, ethical issues arise when selecting your web data collection provider. They must commit to accessing only public web data. Public web data discussed here should be treated with the utmost sensitivity, integrity and professionalism. If done correctly, which means following international regulations and clear and well-established ethical guidelines to maintain the privacy of user data, then you ensure that you are legal and ethical.

Simply put, public web scraping gives you the same level of transparency on the internet as the typical user. To ensure that your data collection is done ethically, there are clear risks and important standards that you must adhere to. These standards are an absolute requirement that all operators must follow, without exception. They are neither optional nor a “nice to have” addition to your company’s policy.

Myth #4: Sources of information are mostly private

Totally false, the majority of data on the web is public. Internet growth statistics from Statista show that 4.66 billion people use the Internet (as of January 2021). That’s nearly 60% of the world’s population. Considering that most of the world’s data has been generated in the past two years alone, it is estimated that almost 70% of the data generated is public (of which humans are responsible for almost 60% of the data generated). Although these statistics only give us a rough indication, the trend is clear.

With regard to web scraping, providers may only collect information that is open to the public. To simplify this further, it means anything that you or I can access using a standard browser on the Internet without logging in. Data is forbidden so you need to log in, it’s simple.

Myth #5: Online data collection is only done by “dubious” companies.

Bad! Companies of all sizes, from Fortune 500 companies to startups and SMBs, collect and use public web data to inform their decision-making. The only difference is what kind of data they need and how often they need it. In today’s real-time economy, businesses cannot thrive without being able to see the full reality of the market, and to do that they need access to the greatest source of data. While our reality is mostly driven by digital innovation, it’s no surprise that public web data has become the “no hassle” solution.

As CTO of the market leader in data collection, you might think it’s obvious that I’m fighting for this corner. However, for this industry to succeed, we must be our own harshest critics and ensure that we and others seeking to collect data are not tempted to engage in illegal or unethical activities at place of strict regulations.

With any emerging technology, especially in the data space, there will always be analysis that explores its purpose and legality. However, there is a cause for the greater good, allowing businesses to thrive with the latest publicly available information online. When analyzing data collection, it is important to understand what is collected and how it is collected.

With so many big brands reliant on data insights, this will become a fast growing industry, and it is up to everyone in this community to promote legal and ethical compliance where appropriate, it is our moral duty to do so.

The author is Ron Kol, CTO at Bright Data.

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