The Complex Legal Landscape of Email Scraping

Feb 20, 2024 ยท 2 min read

Email scraping, also known as email harvesting, refers to collecting email addresses from websites and online sources to use for marketing purposes. This practice occupies a complex legal area with some gray areas.

When Email Scraping May Be Illegal

  • Scraping email addresses off websites or services where it is prohibited by the terms of service or otherwise not allowed. Many sites expressly forbid scraping.
  • Using technical means to access emails behind login screens or technical barriers without permission. This may violate anti-hacking laws.
  • Selling or sharing scraped email lists with third parties.
  • When Email Scraping May Be Legal

  • Scraping emails that are publicly and intentionally made available online without restrictions. However, bulk collecting public emails for commercial purposes still carries some legal uncertainty.
  • Scraping your own customer email lists. Companies likely have rights to use emails freely given by their customers.
  • Using email addresses for internal purposes rather than selling or sharing the list. Non-commercial personal use faces fewer restrictions.
  • Tips for Legal Compliance

  • Review website terms of service for any restrictions before scraping.
  • Avoid technically circumventing barriers to access emails behind logins.
  • Seek opt-in consent before emailing addresses obtained through scraping.
  • Consult an attorney specialized in data privacy and scraping laws for legal advice. Laws differ internationally.
  • In summary, email scraping occupies a complex legal gray area that comes down to issues of permission, technical barriers, commercial usage, and jurisdiction. When in doubt, err on the side of caution by respecting opt-in preferences and website terms of service.

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