Is Web Crawling Legal and Why

8 min readSep 4

Originally published as

Web crawling, also called web scraping, screen scraping, or web data extraction, in technical terms, is a computer program technique used to scrape huge amounts of data from websites where regular-format data can be extracted and processed into easy-to-read structured formats. As a trending term in the data-dominated era, web scraping, combined with the power of automation, offers a scalable way to access, rank, collect, organize, and analyze the huge amount of documentation and data on the web. Modern web scrapers have streamlined the process of data extraction and thus saved us from the repetitive work of copy-pasting.

For a long time, web crawling has been considered a sort of gray zone. Because in most situations, people use this technique to grab data from web pages without the consent of the site’s webmaster. With the rising prevalence of web scraping, the legality of this technique has been realized by more and more people. In this article, we’ll discuss the legal considerations of web crawling, and how to avoid legal issues while pulling data from websites.

Is Web Crawling Legal

Let’s start with the question in the title. Is web crawling legal? Well, it depends. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the legality of web crawling, including how you do that, how you use the scraped data, and the legal theories and laws.

How You Do Web Crawling

Generally, scraping public information from websites is legal, whereas scraping private account data will raise privacy concerns. Here are a few popular use cases to show how different industries do web scraping in a well-accepted way.

E-commerce: Retailers use web scraping to automate marketplace price monitoring, build up product profiles, and collect customer reviews for sentiment analysis among diverse online shopping platforms like Amazon and eBay.

Marketing and Advertising: Content creators apply web crawling to collect data from various social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube to generate new ideas for content marketing and understand what audiences are interested in.

Real Estate: Realtors scrape listings from property websites like to aggregate loads of research data for comparison. That way, they can predict if the real estate market will skyrocket any time soon or see in what price range


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