Scraping public data is legal, the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals has ruled in a potentially landmark decision.
The decision follows a ruling by a federal court of appeals that reaffirmed its earlier decision, notably that web scraping (data harvesting, en masse) of data that’s made available to the general public, does not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
The CFAA is used to determine what can be described as “hacking” under US law.
Unfettered use of the database driven infrastructure in effect. Plenty more on this topic over at Electronic Frontier Foundation
We’re discussing the notion of property rights here and the proper disposal of unique datasets with cyber value, a value which exists outside ( or understanding for that matter) the scope of universal authority. Not all that different than the market of bitcoin. So when I say to you the first moment the sex offender was sold out to big data the rest of the population came along too. The only difference being pre-act sex offenders had to be first without process and enmasse to normalize such actions for the people. It’s the uses of the databases that need regulating as much as the violent human.
I mean if the SOR was about circumventing real domestic violence and not just a marketing strategy then why has it continued to evolve and produce with little factual & measurable advantage to public safety outside of a domestic surveillance infrastructure then where is the promised fruit? The answer only becomes clear through the commodities rendered outside the scope of appropriate ( Warranted) government surveillance. I limit my remarks here to gov authority, because the focus here is on the registrant, but it is the ubiquitous private enterprise that is the more onerous.
This is an important issue since the expliotation websites scrape data from the Megan’s Law websites, which are publicly available.
After my petition was granted and I was removed from the registry, I checked homefacts and found my “profile” there. I informed them of the error, without mentioning the petition, and they removed the profile quickly.
I’m one of those people who write the specialized software to scrape websites and other systems, online or offline. I have built a highly specialized arsenal of automated or one-off scraping tools to deal with a wide variety of challenges faced with scraping of data from various systems. I have been doing so since 1999. It’s a cat and mouse game for sure, but there are so many legitimate reasons to scrape data from the open web. This ruling is both a blessing and a curse. Obviously.
Some legit purposes for scraping: In 2011 when Charles Rodrick and Brent Oesterblad were targeting registered persons for ongoing harassment, I found myself writing the code to crawl their entire site. My estimates says I cost Rodrick well over 3k in Amazon hosting costs the first time the program was used, which was my first infliction of retaliatory damage. Not long after that, the database got moved to a garage on a residential internet connection, probably to avoid expensive hosting costs and people like me finding ways to drive those costs up.
In 2013, I was asked to scrape a few state registries to build a mailing list for smaller reform movement organizations to more effectively communicate important issues to registered persons.
And more recently, shortly after the arrest of Mugshots.com’s owners for a slew of charges, I managed to obtain a full copy of their entire website for evidence in a case I had hoped the FBI would get involved in. That database is over 10GB in size in compressed form. (By the way, what ever happened in that case?)
My point is this, while it seems terrible to have the wild west of an open web, it’s better that we all have access to the tools for digital self defense and not just the bad guys. Mugshots.com got away with profiting off people’s arrests for more than a decade and are still operating their website to this day.
At least in the reform movement, you have people like me willing to donate time and more than 20 years of experience into fighting back.
We can either be afraid of information being published online (Doxxing) or embrace the ability to fight back.
I have big plans now that the courts have ruled and it will be good for the reform movement. Some of you reading this will know who I am.
People who use the registry to discriminate against us need to be aware of one thing: while the fact that being a “sex offender” or on the registry may not be a protected class against discrimination, the opposite is also true. We can discriminate as much as we want against non-registrants. Registrant landlords can deny rental applications and registrant-friendly employers can turn away people all day long if they aren’t on the list, so free free to use this power to let registry proponents know they’re not welcome to do business with us. It will infuriate them that they empowered us to do this, but maybe it will also give them a taste of being on the other side and help them rethink their life choices.
This is one area where I have to agree with the court and am glad they ruled the way they did. I work in tech and there are many, many legitimate uses of scraping, and potentially making many of these criminal hacking – what the CFAA is concerned with – would frankly have been insane and hamstrung many aspects of tech our society relies on, including academic and security research.
I think the right way to go about the problem of these harassment sites is rather some combination of privacy law (what you can legally do with the data scraped, not the scraping, as pertains to individual privacy) and of course what we all know should really happen, no registries or at least no public ones.
So basically SCOTUS is complicit in facilitating hate, shaming and bullying by giving the green light to nefarious actors that use this information to monetize misery.
Look. We all have to be responsible for our Digital footprint. In the same way we have to do so in public out and about. Yes, there is stuff about us online. The “scrubbing sites” are predatory. No doubt.
When I came off the REG in Connecticut I fought the “Patch” in Connecticut as still linking me to previous articles and so on. I won. They scrubbed it. I sent to them my official termination to the Editor of the “panel” and that was that. It was scrubbed.
So, I don’t join in on LinkedIn, I don’t do social media and I dont allow too much of myself out there in Digital world. Less is MORE.
As well every Month I scrub my Google and Bing account.