The Big Data movement taking hold in Financial Services is based in a large part on the aggregation of data from different sources, often using web scraping methods like a bot or spider. And while it's easy to see the web as an open source of information for the taking, it's worth reminding that it's really not. So before finding yourself at the wrong end of a cease and desist or court order, take a good look at the terms of service.

These words of warning come from The Practicing Law Institute's lecture, "Everyone's Doing It, But Is It Legal? Web Scraping & Online Data Harvesting," as part of the Social Media 2014: Addressing Corporate Risks seminar.

Web scraping is when a company uses automated programing to retrieve information or content made public by another company. If the scraping company makes competitive use of the other firm's information it could potentially be copyright infringement or a breach of contract (terms of use).

"You may be surprised how few websites have prohibitions in place from web scraping bots," said Dale Cendali, ESQ from Kirkland & Ellis LLP. However, a site can always change its terms of use, and recent court cases against crawlers show there can be real impacts to violators.

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