Nearly a decade ago, Neil Emeigh — the CEO and founder of Rayobyte — decided to enter the data scraping space. It was not long after this that he became frustrated with the low quality of available proxies and made it his mission to offer a better process. In time, his basement-based one-man proxy operation became the largest proxy provider in the United States.
“We live in a world where ethical data acquisition and usage are seen as virtually impossible to reconcile,” says Neil. “I am here to attest to the fact that they can pair extremely well. Any company can practice ethical scraping to ensure their data-collection process is entirely transparent and above board.”
What is ethical scraping?
Sectors such as digital marketing and data science require loads of information, and the most effective way for them to gather these hordes of data is through a process called web scraping. When companies and researchers collect the required data manually, it requires a massive amount of time and resources, but today’s web-scraping tools enable them to extract relevant information from the internet automatically.
That is web scraping in a nutshell, but the waters get murkier when people attempt to define the ethics of the practice. Corporations and researchers are in desperate need of data, and it is readily available. However, just because the information is ripe for the picking does not mean companies can acquire it easily.
The internet is a goldmine of public data, but web-scraping detection software frequently steps in to block companies and researchers that extract copious amounts of information through a single IP address. To avoid this, companies mask their online identities by channeling data through intermediary devices called residential proxies. Each time companies and researchers connect through a proxy, their IP address changes, and this makes it far more difficult for sites to block them.
While web scraping itself is entirely legal, the process of harvesting the information involves a number of ethical snares. The most significant issues arise as companies and researchers set about acquiring residential proxies.
Ethically obtained residential proxies
Neil founded his company around the idea that providing proxies ethically can benefit everyone involved. “We incentivize users to participate as residential proxies by offering cash bonuses for helping us access the internet’s stores of data,” he explains. “In this way, the people who acquire information benefit, and so do the people enabling them to obtain that information. It’s a win-win.”
In addition to compensating users for the use of IP addresses, Rayobyte’s software is careful to take the concerns of proxies into consideration. It guarantees devices are only used as proxies if they are already connected to Wi-Fi, not currently in use, and are either charging or up to at least 50% power. Furthermore, Rayobyte gives full control to consumers by allowing anyone being used as a proxy to opt-out at any time.
Neil is not content with a mere show of ethics. He warns against the majority of proxy providers who hide behind terms of service too long to read or vague promises of social accountability. “We’re not satisfied with half-hearted attempts. We have set the industry standard and hope others will join us.”
Protecting residential proxies by vetting the companies that use them
The commitment to ethics does not end after obtaining residential proxies. “At Rayobyte, we protect the people who trust us with their IP addresses,” Neil asserts. “With this in mind, we do not allow companies to purchase IPs outright, and we vet any company using our proxies.”
Before using residential proxies through Rayobyte, customers must first demo their products and undergo a rigorous vetting process to prove they are indeed a legitimate business. In addition to vetting, Rayobyte has three safeguards in place: automated monitoring, manual spot checks, and preventative measures.
“We define specific use cases in which users can access our proxies, and our proprietary monitoring system will shut down any use case that does not adhere to those standards,” says Niel. “We’ve trained this automated system over many years and over hundreds of thousands of proxies. Our software is designed to detect risky behavior and stop it before it starts.”
In addition to the AI’s line of defense, Rayobyte fields a 24/7 technical team to perform manual spot checks. The software also employs several preventative measures such as restricting customers’ accounts to the domains they publicly say they will use.
The need for data is growing, and so is the demand for efficient web scraping software. This process has the potential to benefit corporations and private consumers alike when companies carry it out in a respectful and ethical manner.
“All the major proxy providers employ limits to ensure their scraping is legal,” Neil concludes. “What sets Rayobyte apart is our commitment to residential proxies that are obtained ethically and used ethically through the entire process.”