Do you want to scrape data from web pages online anonymously without revealing your real IP address? Then read the guide below to learn the tricks involved in doing that.
Web scraping is incredibly useful for businesses, marketers, research institutes, and even governments. With this, web data found on the Internet can be collected in an automated way in a fast manner.
However, this is one of the least supported tasks by websites on the Internet. Most websites do not appreciate being scraped and as such, have systems in place to identify web scrapers in other to block them.
Interestingly, you only get blocked when identified. This means that if you can hide from detection using VPNs such as surfshark, then you can avoid getting blocked. And detection starts from when you are identifiable. While websites are becoming smart and effective at identifying web scrapers, this is only possible for low-quality web scrapers.
With the right tools and techniques, you can still hide your web scraping footprint and avoid getting blocked. The methods involved will be discussed in this article.
How to Avoid Getting Blocked by Being Anonymous
The first thing you should know about being identifiable online is the pointers websites use to identify you. The most obvious one that all websites use is IP address. This is a numerical identifier uniquely assigned to each computer on the Internet. Most websites have some request rate limiting feature baked into their anti-spam system.
What this essentially does is allow only a specified number of requests from a single IP address within a period of time. This rate is seen as the natural rate for normal users. Web scrapers are known to send too many requests and that is what leads to web scrapers getting blocked easily.
The fix for being anonymous is by having a bunch of IP addresses and rotating among them. Let’s say you will need to scrape data from 10K web pages and have access to 500 IP addresses, then the requests will be shared between these 500 IP addresses.
This makes it 20 requests per IP which is acceptable in a short while compared to sending 10K requests via the same IP address. To make things even more effective, there are services that can rotate IP addresses for you. Let’s take a look at the options in this regard.
Use Rotating VPN Services
VPN services provide you with secure and private access to the Internet via a virtual private network. Their most spectacular feature is the ability to mask your real IP address with an alternative one. By default, most of the VPN services do not rotate your IP address as frequently as will be enough to carry out web scraping tasks.
Some of the popular VPN services support rotating IPs — but you will have to configure it from the settings. SurfShark, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN do support this. With the settings up, you do not have to carry out any settings in your web scraper as VPN software work from the system level and forces all web traffic via the secure tunnel they created.
One thing you need to know about rotating VPNs is that no matter how well they rotate, the chances of repeating the same IP address are quite high. This is because VPN services do not have millions of IP addresses in their pool as residential proxy networks do. It is for this reason that even though you can potentially scrape web pages using a rotating VPN, the technique is not well known as it is not an effective method of web scraping.
No doubt, VPNs work for this. But they are not really the tool for the job. Rotating proxies are better suited for this. For the most part, rotating proxies are residential proxies which makes them more undetectable compared to VPN services that most use IPs from data centers. Residential proxy networks also have large IP pools compared to VPN services. Proxies are far more effective for staying anonymous while web scraping than rotating VPN.
Other Ways to Stay Anonymous While Web Scraping
While hiding your IP address is a good way to stay anonymous while web scraping, it might not work for you. This is because many websites are using other pointers to identify potential web scrapers. For this reason, you should consider the below techniques too to avoid getting detected while web scraping.
Do not Save Cookies
This technique is only useful for those using headless browsers to web scrape. Regular web scrapers do not even have support for cookies except you custom-develop them to save cookies. For web scrapers based on headless browsers, you need to make sure cookies are not saved in the browser. This is because, after IP addresses, cookies are the next tool for identifying users. Even with IP rotated, if cookies stay the same, then the bot will be discovered and further access blocked.
Set Delays Between Scraping
This method does not necessarily help with staying anonymous, it just stops the anti-spam system from triggering. If you set random delays between your request, you are less likely to appear spammy. Sometimes, even with proxies, web services can still discover your activities because of the too many requests which gives them a lot of data to analyze.
Use Antidetect Browsers for Web Scraping
Lately, websites are beginning to generate unique browser fingerprints from public data about ones’ browser data such as screen resolution, color depth, geolocation, fonts, plugins, canvas, WebGL, AudioContext, etc. With this, they can identify you correctly with just your browser details. What antidetect browsers do is spoof your real browser fingerprint so that it becomes difficult for them to generate a real browser fingerprint of you.
Most antidetect browsers support automation via Selenium. You can make use of that to web scrape. I recommend Multilogin, GoLogin, and Incogniton for anonymous web scraping. They also support proxies too for better anonymity while scraping.
With the numerous methods through which websites identify users on their platforms, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay anonymous while web scraping.
In other, for you to remain truly anonymous, you need to find out the method a website use and then devise techniques to bypass these methods for effective anonymity while carrying out your web scraping task.
One thing you need to know about web scraping is that staying anonymous is not an option — the moment you are identifiable, you sure will get detected and blocked.