Web data aggregators (“web scraping”) gather available data from around the Internet, enabling consumer confidence, commercial innovation, and community safety. To drive further awareness of and public trust in this crucial digital ability, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition) has announced the launch of the Ethical Web Data Collection Initiative (EWDCI). This international, industry-led, and member-driven consortium of web data aggregation business leaders is focused on encouraging dialogue and improving digital peace of mind for consumers and companies.
By establishing the EWDCI, the i2Coalition seeks to foster cooperation within the data aggregation industry and build a framework to establish an open, participatory process around the development of legal and ethical web scraping provider principles that will lead to greater accountability. The EWDCI is actively seeking more members of the data scraping field dedicated to establishing best practices to join and help shape the initiative’s early efforts.
“The public deserves digital peace of mind, and ‘scraping’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word when it is done responsibly, but responsibility needs defining,” said Christian Dawson, the i2Coalition’s Executive Director. “As with any industry in these early stages, it has a unique opportunity to have a hand in how it is developed and perceived.”
The web data aggregation industry is young and growing, and the founding members of the EWDCI are committed to serving as the voice of this emerging industry. This means collaboratively building public trust in the practice of data aggregation, promoting ethical guidelines, and helping businesses make informed data aggregation choices. Founding EWDCI members include five companies: Coresignal, Oxylabs, Smartproxy, Rayobyte, and Zyte.
Web scraping enables business innovation and competition, provides consumer benefits—including serving accurate information and comprehensive pricing—and facilitates thorough data analysis for academic and public safety purposes. Some noteworthy use cases include:
- E-commerce price intelligence, including up-to-the-minute comparative information on same-item pricing across the internet
- Jobs and real estate listing aggregation
- Social listening and brand monitoring
- Alternative data for investment decision-making
- Businesses performing a thorough review of consumer trends and competitor companies worldwide to best position themselves for success
- Companies scanning the Internet data for illicit uses of their intellectual property
- Businesses confirming validity of marketing spend via ad verification
- Data aggregation companies supplying pro-bono scraped data to academic researchers, providing them vast data stores for essential research
To properly provide these benefits to consumers, companies, and the public at large, data aggregators need to follow ethical practices. Such dedication will serve to further understanding of the data aggregation practice and process, and further the adoption of this technology.
Key to this is a safe and community-minded application of aggregation and, therefore, a positive reputation for the practice and its practitioners. The i2Coalition is the leading voice for businesses that build the internet and has spearheaded the creation of similar efforts to create standardized industry benchmarks—such as the VPN Trust Initiative, which determined and promoted best practices for that vital industry.
“The EWDCI aims to reach companies with this message of ethical data aggregation, as well as to educate consumers at large and legislators worldwide in the interest of informed, empowered action,” said Dawson. “This will promote industry-led stewardship of important—and already widely adopted—technology in the interest of solving any present challenges and setting the industry up for forthcoming success.”