Have you ever noticed how you might start to get unsolicited emails from various organizations asking you for your input or asking you to consider using one of their services? Chances are the culprit behind this action is data scraping. If used properly, scraping can be used as an effective marketing tool, but it can also be utilized by hackers and other malicious or unethical entities in a more nefarious way.
What is Data Scraping?
In essence, data scraping, also called web scraping, is the exporting of data from a web page to a spreadsheet or local file. If you ever need to get data off the web, chances are you are using some form of data scraping to make it happen. Essentially, what you are doing is taking data from one location and transferring it to another, usually in the form of a file on your computer that can be manipulated, like an Excel spreadsheet or something of the sort. It’s far from the most efficient method of handling it, as the structure of the data could complicate the process, but it is one method of doing so that has various uses.
How Can It Be Used?
There are certain ways that data scraping can be used to a business’ advantage. Here are just a few of them:
- Comparing the costs of various goods, products, or services in one single document.
- Conducting market research to generate new leads; this is primarily for public data sources, as depending on the location, data scraping of directories, websites, or social media can be illegal.
- Researching web content for the purposes of building up your business.
- Gathering data for easy analysis and providing it with structure
There are, of course, other uses, but this should give you a pretty good idea of what data scraping can do for businesses. Whether you are trying to find the best deal for a new product, research your competitors, or simply compile data from a single web source, data scraping can be an effective means to make it happen. There are various tools out there that can be used to assist with data scraping—just let us know and we’ll be happy to share some of our recommendations.
What About Hackers?
One of the worst ways that people can use data scraping is email harvesting. Consider how many websites house information on their employees or users in directories; all of this data can be scraped if the user knows what they are doing. The user can then sell these email addresses and other information to those who would abuse the data, such as spammers and hackers. You can bet that this type of information can be used in hacking attacks, including phishing and spam campaigns. In some cases, using data scraping for commercial purposes is illegal, but it is also generally considered a poor marketing practice. Still, this doesn’t stop spammers and scammers from trying to make use of it in this way.
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