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Published on: 2 May 2024

Scraping is almost always illegal

Scraping is the automated collection and storage of information from the internet. Scraping by private parties and individuals is almost never allowed. This is stated by the Personal Data Authority (AP) in a new guidance on 1 May 2024. In practice, those parties can use scraping legally only if they do so in a very targeted way.

In scraping, a computer programme automatically ‘scrapes’ data from the internet. For example, by scanning social media. With scraping, personal data are almost always collected. This creates privacy risks. Scraping can collect personal data from a large number of people in a short period of time. The information captured in scraping can be about many aspects of a person’s life. It may also contain all kinds of special personal data and criminal data, which usually should not be collected and used.

AVG violation

Scraping will almost always be a violation of the General Data Protection Regulation (AVG). In a number of cases, scraping is not allowed anyway. For example:

  • scrapping the internet to create profiles of people in order to resell them;
  • scrapping information from protected social media accounts or closed forums;
  • scrapping data from public social media profiles, for the purpose of determining whether or not those people get a requested insurance.

The AP’s guidance is not aimed at the government. But government scraping also has significant privacy risks and is subject to strict rules. The AP is also working on a guidance note on government scraping.

Disclosure is not consent

It is not true that scraping would be allowed, because everything on the internet can be viewed by anyone anyway. Consent to collect personal data must be given in advance, and the fact that it is already on the internet does not imply consent.

Almost never possible

In practice, scraping by private organisations and individuals is only possible on the basis of legitimate interest when no consent has been given. This basis is subject to strict conditions. For example, scraping may not be used with the sole interest of making money from it. It is almost never possible to meet these conditions with scraping, according to the AP. On a side note, the AP has a particularly strict view on this, for example also with regard to direct marketing. The question is how this is assessed at European level.


In exceptional cases, scraping may be allowed. For example, for ‘domestic use’: if an individual uses scraping for a hobby project and only shares the results with some friends, the AVG does not apply and it is allowed. Scraping may also be allowed when it is used in a very targeted way. For example, when an organisation scrapes the websites of news media, to highlight relevant news about its own company.


Do you have any questions? Then contact one of our lawyers by mail, telephone or fill in the contact form for a free initial consultation. We will be happy to think along with you.

Articles by Jop Fellinger

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