Privacy Law

Legal or Not, 'Scrapers' Compile Data on What People Say Online

For years, court records and real estate transactions have been fair game for those who collect and compile data for others.

But today much, much more is available online. And scrapers are digging up and organizing data ranging from cell phone numbers to social networking comments, for a price, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) in a lengthy article.

The law hasn’t caught up with the practice, even as companies market real-time listening services, for those who wish to know what is being said about them or their products, and offer to match a real-life individual with the screen names he or she uses on social networking sites.

“Scraping is ubiquitous, but questionable,” says law professor Eric Goldman of Santa Clara University. “Everyone does it, but it’s not totally clear that anyone is allowed to do it without permission.”

Related coverage: “Many Wince at Above the Law Blogger’s Chilling Account of Online ‘Stalk’”

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