Web Scraping: 2019 In Retrospect

Web Scraping: 2019 in Retrospect
20 Feb

For the data scraping and data analytics industry, this past year has had a lot of twists and turns. From rising interest in data privacy to new and exciting scraping solutions, 2019 was definitely interesting. In this article we’ll review the major advancements, tools, and trends we had this year, and discuss what we can expect in 2020.

 

New Regulations and Advances in Data Privacy 

2019 has seen data privacy issues jump to the forefront of public debate, in large part due to the social media giant Facebook involvement in highly publicized user privacy scandal.  The rising public interest has brought governments to action all around the world. 

As reported by Harvard Business Review back in july 2019, “Governments are in the process of passing and implementing new laws to ensure higher standards for software security and data privacy.” And although laws and regulations are slow to set and implement, tech companies have had to take them into consideration – Whether by developing tools to preserve internet freedom and maintal efficient data scraping, or by adapting products to follow upcoming regulations.

One of the major examples of the evolution in data privacy is Apples’ updated “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” (ITP) implemented in the company’s new operating system and Safari browser. This new feature aims to limit advertisers and site owners ability to track users across domains. New advances like this one created new challenges for the scraping industry to hurdle in 2020. 

 

Beware of Browser Fingerprinting

Browser fingerprint is the data your device provides every time you connect to the internet. The data mostly contain information regarding the websites you visit, but also about your browser type and version, operating system, plugins, timezone, language, screen resolution and other settings. 

This data collection process is called “browser fingerprinting.” This is one of the most powerful tools that websites use to collect information, helping them identify and track users’ online activity. The bottom line being – If one attribute or a combination of several attributes of your fingerprint is unique, then it is fairly easy for websites to track you online.

But what about all the privacy regulations, you ask? Well, as it turns out, websites don’t need to ask for user permissions to collect all this information. Any script running in your browser can collect information and create your browser fingerprint without you even knowing about it. 

So, in spite of all the efforts done in recent years to increase online privacy, with major advancements in 2019, Browser fingerprinting is still a major concern. There are still many entities – both corporate and government – looking to monitor internet activity, and they all have different reasons for doing so. 

Going forward into 2020, it seems the best solution for keeping your information safe online is to use a VPN or Proxy service to mask your location and IP address. 

 

The Rise of Static Residential Proxies

Static Residential Proxies have really taken center stage in the scraping industry during 2019. A residential proxy is a legit IP address provided by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and is attached to a certain physical location. Residential Proxy services usually allow their clients to choose a static residential IP address to mask their existing one. This provides users with the security and anonymity they need to continue on scraping without being blocked.

The main benefit of a static residential proxy is its high anonymity. Since these IP addresses are provided by an ISP they seem real and legit, and are less likely to be identified and blocked by websites. Additionally, static proxies provide a more stable internet connection than dynamic proxies, so your web scraping won’t be interrupted.

Thanks to their advantages, Static Residential Proxies have become very popular in the past year. And it seems they are sticking around for 2020 as well. From data scraping to improved online privacy and anonymity, these proxies are taking the scraping world by storm. 

 

We Should All Be Using Social Media Proxies

Social media use has reached new heights these past few years, with billions of users worldwide. Social media platforms have long since advanced from being just a place to catch up with friends and family. Nowadays, sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become sites where businesses can market their products and provide customer service.

In order to keep up with the growing competition, social media marketers have to attract enough customers so the sites consider their content valuable enough to be promoted. If they are unsuccessful, they run the risk of having their account labelled as ‘spam’ and be blocked.

As this is a fear that marketers often grapple with, they have to constantly look for newer ways to reach out to their audience without getting flagged by the top sites. One way businesses found to increase consumer interaction is to create more than one account on each site. However, Social media sites put a lot of restrictions on product promotion – multiple accounts are not allowed, and various marketing tools have been prohibited. 

Trying to deal with these restrictions, we have seen increased use of Social Media Proxies. These proxies hide your IP address, allowing you to create multiple social media accounts and use all the tools you want without compromising your security and anonymity.

 

Sophisticated Anti Bot detection in 2020

For several years now, bots have been a hugely popular scraping tool. The most recent bot generations are so advanced that they are almost indistinguishable from human internet users, and they are nearly impossible to detect. These advanced scraping bots have brought on the development of more sophisticated bot-detection tools. 

Traditionally, anti-bot solutions tend relied heavily on IP address reputation, based on watching the activity from a certain IP address in hopes of identifying hostile activity. In case any abnormal or malicious activity was detected, the IP associated with it is blocked.

Today’s bots have evolved and are often distributed through residential proxies, using IPs that have excellent reputations and are very hard to distinguish from IPs generated by ISPs. In other words, IP-based bot detection approaches have become ineffective. 

Having said that, in 2020 we are set to see more and more AI-based bot detection solutions, using advanced computer learning algorithms to try and keep up with increasingly powerful and efficient bots. This is a major development to watch for in the upcoming year, so stay tuned.

 

Conclusion

To sum up, 2019 was tumultuous. Really. We saw an increase in regulations and enforcement next to better collection solutions. New threats to our privacy and anonymity, right next to giant advances in proxy services. So although the scraping industry can’t rest on its laurels, we can definitely stay optimistic heading into 2020.

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