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What is web data harvesting?

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By the one and only
August 26, 2021

Disclaimer: We are not your lawyer, and the recommendations in this guide do not constitute legal advice. If you want assistance with your specific situation then you should consult a lawyer.

With the growth of data science and the need for big data, everyone is looking for innovative ways to access data that can give them a competitive advantage and boost their decision-making. And web data is one of the biggest sources of untapped data that can radically transform your business.

As more and more companies are extracting web data in larger and larger volumes, the web data extraction industry has considerably evolved in the past decade. Due to this explosive growth, lots of different terms like web scraping, web data harvesting, web mining, web crawling, data extraction, data mining, etc. are floating around. All these terms are used interchangeably and this has created a lot of confusion in the industry.

Let’s try to take a closer look at these terminologies and understand their correct usage.

What is web data harvesting?

Web data harvesting is the process of collecting structured web data in an automated fashion. It’s also called web scraping or web data extraction. The term harvesting is adopted from the agricultural reference which involves collecting and systematically sorting crops from the fields.

Website data harvesting is extremely simple and works by way of two parts - a web crawler and a web scraper. The web crawler is the horse, and the scraper is the chariot. The crawler leads the scraper, as if by hand, through the internet, where it extracts the data requested. If you want to learn more about the difference between web crawling & web scraping and how they work, we have a whole article dedicated to this topic.

Is data harvesting legal?

The legality of web data harvesting depends on you remaining compliant with the law and staying respectful to websites you’re harvesting public data from. A few checks to ensure compliance include:

  • Personal data - ensure you have a legal basis to harvest any data that could be used to directly or indirectly identify a specific individual and comply with the relevant personal data laws.
  • Copyrighted data - When harvesting data from a website you should consider whether the web data you are planning to harvest is copyrighted. You must ensure any collection or use of data is in compliance with applicable copyright laws.
  • Data behind a login - When you log in to a website and accept terms, you are entering into a contract with the website owner. You should carefully examine the terms to determine if data harvesting is allowed. You should always honor the terms of any contract you enter into.

Data Harvesting vs Web Scraping

Simply put, data harvesting and web scraping are just different terminologies for the same process. No matter what term you use, web data harvesting can be a powerful tool to have in your arsenal. It has applications in almost every industry from price intelligence to market research.

With the advancement of the industry, there are many data extraction tools and service providers that can help you with harvesting data from websites. If you need help with a specific project, let us know and our web scraping experts can surely help you.

Written by Himanshi Bhatt
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