Scraping Reviews - Is It Legal?
Web scraping has been used to gather useful data from the web for many years now. However, in legal terms this practice is still a kind of grey area, and it raises questions among experts. So is reviews scraping legal?
We are not lawyers ourselves, but from the information we have gathered it seems that there are no legal restrictions on the use of opinions, reviews, or comments left by third parties on the web.
They are certainly not legally protected in the U.S., where in 2017 a judge ruled in the highprofile case of LinkedIn v. hiQ. As we can read in an article posted on The National Law Review website:
"On August 14, 2017, the Court granted hiQ’s request and issued a preliminary injunction preventing LinkedIn from interfering with hiQ’s scraping of data from public LinkedIn profiles. In a quite thorough decision, Judge Edward M. Chen questioned whether the automated scraping of publicly available data from public-facing websites would violate the CFAA, regardless of the website’s user agreement”.
This, by the way, is not the only U.S. court decision proving the legality of reviews scraping. A district court in Washington, D.C. also concluded that the use of automated tools to obtain information that is publicly available on the open web is not a crime. The ruling implies that it is legal even if the site itself forbids such practices through its terms of service provisions.
Let's also remember that the SEO industry is largely based on scraping the search results pages of search engines such as Google. Companies that have been operating in this industry for years (e.g. Moz, SEMRush) have been providing us with data coming directly from scraping and they have not faced any legal consequences so far. So it seems that scraping reviews remains a legitimate activity.