Hackernoon logoAn Introduction to Email Scraping by@julliearden

An Introduction to Email Scraping

image
Jullie Arden Hacker Noon profile picture

@jullieardenJullie Arden

Writing about tech and marketing.

DISCLAIMER: the information provided below must be used only for informational purposes. Please consult your legal team if you have specific questions or concerns regarding the compliance with any relevant laws.

Businesses often need their potential customers' contact details for marketing campaigns and growing their sales. Obviously, they require an enormous customer list and up-to-date information for productive email marketing campaigns. A good database of potential consumers may include up to thousands of contacts. Fortunately, such data can be collected not only manually but also with special web scraping software. Let's find out what email scraping is, how you can use it, and what's more important, whether it's legal or not. 

What Is an Email Scraper? 

An email parser or scraper is a program designed to extract email addresses from web pages. Such programs can usually extract email addresses from web pages and upload the results to a necessary file format, for example, Excel. For collecting email addresses from the web, professional scrapers usually parse data from social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) or forums. If a company needs to find the email addresses of legal entities, it collects the required information from these firms' corporate sites.

Web scrapers let you automate the process of collecting the data. Their main advantage is that they do it incredibly quickly. One can find a hundred addresses in a couple of minutes. What's more, the program can save information, process it, and provide it in a graphical form. In brief, email scraping consists of the following steps:

  1. The program searches for and selects websites according to various parameters: subject (keywords), date of publication, location, and other criteria (you can configure their list manually).
  2. Your web scraper searches for any lines containing "@" and "email" on the selected sites. 
  3. The application adds the matching objects to your database. 

Why Do You Need an Email Scraper? 

image

A database of potential customers' emails is necessary when it comes to marketing and commercial offers. Since every trade offer must fall exactly into its target audience, the database must have specific characteristics and be narrowly-focused. Thus, your web scraper must collect not any email addresses but only the necessary ones. 

Why may you need an email scraper? You're probably running a commercial company or a private entity and conducting your business activities via the Internet. Moreover, the email addresses database can help public organizations or companies that conduct their activities exclusively offline.

The majority of sales managers point out that it is the search for customers that takes up a significant part of the time. Out of hundreds of processed people, only a few real customers will reply to the offer. So email scraping helps you:

  • collect an extensive database of email addresses;
  • reduce the time spent on finding clients;
  • automate the process of an email marketing campaign;
  • track the history of actions performed.

The negative perception of web scraping

Though web scraping has many advantages and helps us save much time, we often hear that web scraping has a negative reputation because of the following matters: 

  • Businesses use web scraping to gain a competitive advantage. So there is often the financial motivation behind it.
  • Some companies use scraping in complete disregard of copyright and the site's terms of service. 
  • People often use web scraping dishonestly. For example, parsers can send much more requests per second than a person, resulting in an unexpected overload on sites. Scrapers can also remain anonymous and not define themselves in any way. And, as a result, they can perform prohibited actions: bypass security measures that protect data from automatic downloading, etc.

Is Email Scraping Legal? 

Though email scraping is extremely helpful for businesses, it's still undergoing growing difficulties when it comes to legal matters. Since the email scraping process collects pre-existing data from the web, businesses who hope to leverage scrapers for their processes face some ethical and legal difficulties. The legal issues of email scraping are under the legality of web scraping, which is still negotiable.

Basically, web scraping is legal by itself if you follow compliance. The critical aspect that matters is how you are going to use the parsed information. After all, you could scrape or crawl your own website without a hitch. Or you run a startup and want to use crawling for gathering data without the need for partnerships. Legal web scraping also includes cases when you scrape data for digital marketing purposes (scraping online reviews about your brand, detecting negative feedback to reply to it shortly), analytics (analyzing competitors' pricing), and more. If the scraped data is publicly available, the scraping process complies with the law and is legal. Thus, email scraping is legit if you collect contacts that are available for everybody across the Net. 

While scraping a website for contact details, you must also check the website's Terms of Use. You can easily find Terms of Use and Copyright details on the website itself. Usually, the website's owners state if web scraping is allowed or prohibited and how you can use the scraped data.

Illegal web scraping involves:

  • copying data that is copyrighted;
  • scraping private data that requires username and passcodes;
  • selling confidential data to a third-party.

When you need to scrape contact details like emails and phone numbers, you'll probably want to gather data from rich contact databases like LinkedIn and Crunchbase. You must check before scraping such websites whether they allow accessing the data without creating an account and paying for a subscription. Scraping behind a login page is unethical and illegal and is never allowed by website owners.

Additionally, the account you've registered on the website allows the website owners to collect additional information about you, including how and where you log in and your usage of their service. With these data, it becomes much easier for the website owners to identify web scraping on the platform and ban you. Thus, it's best to look for publicly available data before considering this option and only then consider the given risks when it comes to scraping behind a login screen.

What About GDPR and CCPA? 

image

Legislation that protects individuals' online privacy includes the notable EU's GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and California's CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). It's worth noting that these laws protect individuals, not businesses. So if you're going to gather potential customers' email addresses or phone numbers, these very laws will apply to your actions. Remember to consider the following matters when you scrape emails from a website:

Individuals have a right to ask you for a copy of what data you store about them. Complying with these requests demonstrates your compliance with the applicable laws. 

All personal data, including contact details, must be stored securely, in line with best practice. After you've scraped personal data, you must keep this information secure and protect it with encryption. 

Never sell or share the scraped information with 3rd parties unless you agree on it with the individual. 

To sum up, email scraping is a powerful tool to generate business leads. It can be beneficial as long as it is used with the wishes of the target website in mind and with the respect of any individual whose data is collected. Always use email scraping ethically and consult with a lawyer when you doubt your actions comply with the law.

Tags

Join Hacker Noon

Create your free account to unlock your custom reading experience.