In the background screening industry, web scraping is a fact of life. Given the abundance of people-data spanning various sources, sometimes it’s the only option to easily access the data we need to make informed decisions. It has been a particularly popular method for accessing sex offender registry (SOR) data, but let’s be honest – it’s been falling a little short.
Web scraping SOR information can be problematic due to the high likelihood of missed cases arising from site blocking, inconsistent data, and ongoing maintenance issues that affect the reliability of data retrieval. For these reasons, it’s always best to explore alternate options when possible, like Direct-Source Data® or an API (Application Programming Interface) integration, both of which are finally available with SOR+TM.
SOR+ is our API-driven solution that provides Direct-Source Data straight from OffenderWatch, the largest sex offender management software and database. The API integration offers a more reliable and efficient approach to getting the critical sex offender data registry you need in comparison with traditional methods. Let’s take a look at the benefits of Direct-Source API integration versus web scraping.
Confidence in Data Quality and Accessibility
API data is typically structured and organized, ensuring consistency and accuracy in the information you receive. Web scraping, on the other hand, may yield unstructured or inconsistent data, leading to errors and data quality issues. When it comes to sensitive information like sex offender data, accuracy is non-negotiable.
Web scrapers also pose a risk when it comes to data accessibility. SOR data providers often use blocking technology to prevent scrapers from harming their systems. The site blocking could result in missed records, and the issue could persist for weeks, months, or longer, as you may not even be aware that it’s happening. Recently, 36.5 million searches were blocked from retrieving critical SOR data in just one week – do you know if you were impacted? With SOR+, our Direct-Source API eliminates blocking and provides site outage alerts, ensuring no missed records and the continuity of your sex offender registry searches.
Access to More Information
Some data may only be accessible through APIs, as not all information is available directly on the registry's sites. Web scraping is limited to what is publicly visible on a website, which results in limited information or requires costly and time-consuming manual labor to retrieve additional details. Accessing sex offender registry data through SOR+ ensures you have access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available, without the need for manual labor.
For example, our API integration with OffenderWatch allows us to access and return additional SOR data that would not be received through web scraping such as the individual’s full DOB, SSN matching, mugshot, and the original state of conviction for their initial charge.
Maintenance and Stability
APIs are more stable and less prone to changes in website structure or layout. In contrast, web scraping scripts frequently break due to website updates, necessitating ongoing maintenance. Relying on web scraping for such critical data can result in disruptions and vulnerabilities. When issues do arise, APIs typically return structured error messages, making them easier to handle and troubleshoot, while scraping errors can be more challenging to diagnose and handle effectively. The transparency of API error messages simplifies the debugging process ensuring minimal disruptions to you and your end-user.
Let’s use the recent changes made to the Nationwide Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) as an example. On October 16th the U.S. Department of Justice officially took over the NSOPW site. In doing so, they made several changes to the layout and functionality of the nationwide sex offender search. The site modifications caused disruptions for many providers' web scrape-based sex offender products, resulting in extended outages, and preventing several organizations from getting the critical and timely SOR data that they require. Because SOR+ is API-based, we were able to quickly adapt to the NSOPW changes, thus maintaining accessibility for our customers while others were still facing challenges.
But Wait, There’s More!
When it comes to handling large volumes of data, scalability is important to consider. API integrations are designed to be scalable, meaning they can handle larger volumes of requests without significant performance degradation. Web scraping may become less efficient as the volume of data increases. In a scenario where you need to process a considerable amount of data or if you experience consistent volume fluctuations, APIs provide a clear advantage.
The last thing we’ll touch on is that APIs are more developer-friendly. API endpoints and libraries are well-documented, which makes it easier for developers to interact with them and reduces development time. In contrast, web scraping may require more complex code and reverse engineering of websites. API integration streamlines the development process, saving time and resources.
API Integration with SOR+
In the past, API integration was not an option for sex offender registry data. Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) and background screening companies were stuck with web scraping or other undesirable methods.
That’s why we created SOR+, a comprehensive solution that addresses the limitations of traditional methods. Our seamless connection to the source of the data allows us to provide real-time, instant access to the most up-to-date, accurate, and comprehensive data. It’s the most reliable and efficient way to conduct sex offender registry checks, offering benefits not just for our industry but for candidates and the community at large.
It’s time to leave the limitations of web scraping behind. Embrace the future with API integration through SOR+. Contact us to learn more.