Screen scraping is the process of copying information displayed on a screen of a digital device in order to use it for other purposes.
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Visual data can be captured as simple text from on-screen elements such as text or images displayed on the desktop, in an application, or on a website. Screen scraping can be done automatically, with a specific program, or manually by extracting data one at a time.
Its ethical or unethical uses are many. For example, it can be used in an application to determine a company’s creditworthiness or to illegally steal data from applications. A developer may be tempted to steal another application’s code to make development faster and easier, which is legally wrong.
Use of screen scraping
Screen scraping applications are used in a number of areas including:
Bank applications and financial transactions; Save important data for later use; Perform operations that a user would perform on a website; Converting data from an old application for reuse in a current application; Aggregating data, for example to create a price comparison website; Tracking of user profiles to monitor their online activities; Data theft.
Screen scraping is mainly used in the banking sector. Creditors can use it to capture a customer’s financial information. It enables financial applications to access a user’s various accounts and bring all information together.
However, users must give explicit consent as long as they trust the organization that hosts their accounts, customer details, and passwords. Screen scraping can also be used on mortgage applications.
Finally, it can be used by a company to convert data between an old application and a new user interface so that it can continue to use logic and data from the old program. However, this use is rare and reserved for cases where other methods cannot be considered.
In some cases, screen scraping is a third-party system. For example, a third party company can access financial transaction data in a budget management application.
This is how screen scraping works
There are several ways to screen scrape data, depending on how you want to use it. For example, with Java a person can copy the source code of an application to paste into their own if they know how to access it directly.
In general, screen scraping extracts the data displayed on the screen from a specific element or document in a user interface. Various methods can be used to extract all of the text on a formatted or unformatted page with its exact location. Screen scraping programs sometimes revolve around applications like Selenium or PhantomJS that allow users to extract information from a browser’s HTML code. It is also possible to use UNIX tools, e.g. B. Shell scripts, to be used for simple screen scraping operations.
In the banking sector, a third party is asking users to share their credentials in order to access their financial transaction data by opening a session on digital portals for customers. A budget management application can then extract the inbound and outbound transactions between accounts.
Regarding the transfer of data from an old program, the capture tool should retrieve data from that program formatted for the screen of an old terminal, e.g. B. IBM 3270 and reformat for Windows 10 or a web browser. The tool should also reformat user input for newer user interfaces (such as a Windows graphical user interface or web browser) so that the older application can treat the request as if it came from the device user and the user. older interface.
How to prevent the screen from being scratched
To avoid screen scratches as much as possible, a company can:
All of these methods can be daunting, but they won’t completely stop your screen from being scratched. In addition, companies must ensure that the measures implemented do not affect the user experience. For example, when the content of a website is displayed as an image, it is difficult for visitors to find the appropriate page because search engines will be affected.
Screen scraping tools
Those who do not want to manually collect screen data can automate the process using a variety of tools:
UiPath Jacada FMiner Macro Scheduler ScreenScraper Studio Existek
These tools include automation features such as user interfaces, macro recording utilities, and editors. They run on Windows or in web applications. Some have specific characteristics that set them apart from others and target specific platforms.
Screen scraping or web scraping
While screen scraping consists of extracting data displayed on the screen, web scraping extracts data published on the web. These two practices are very similar, to the point that we can say that web scraping is a special form of screen scraping. What sets them apart is mainly the source of the data and how it is used.
Web scraping is used to extract data from the web only, as opposed to screen scraping, which can also be used to collect data on a user’s workstation or in an application. This form of data mining can be used, for example, to compare the prices of goods in an online store, to refer to the Internet and to perform data mining.
The process accesses the web via HTTP in a browser and can be started manually or automatically with a bot or crawler.
Difference between screen scraping and data scraping
Data scraping is the origin of screen scraping. It is a technique that consists in extracting structured and readable data by the user. It is mainly used to exchange data with an old system and make it readable for newer applications.
Screen scraping and open banking
The main uses of screen scraping have evolved over time. This is particularly the case in one of its main areas of application, the banking sector, which has been gradually abandoning it since 2019, primarily for security reasons. From now on, budget management applications must use a unique open banking technology.
Open banking is a concept in which secure financial information is shared with third party developers so that they can create banking applications. It is based on API sharing where an application can use the same API to bring information from different accounts together in one place. In this way, a banking application can give its users the ability to consult the accounts they have with different banks.
With Open Banking, the required data and only this data is copied without the user having to provide his login information. This concept was introduced in 2018 and is gradually taking precedence over screen scraping.