MLS & Associations

Thousands of agent and broker websites shielded from data scrapers

FBS partnering with Distil to protect agent, broker and public-facing MLS IDX sites

Data scraping has been a problem for years in the real estate industry, inspiring copyright infringement lawsuits and the formation of intellectual property protection group REDPLAN.

Now, FBS says it is the first multiple listing service platform provider to implement a real estate data protection product from technology company Distil Networks on all of the MLS public-facing sites and agent and broker Internet data exchange (IDX) sites powered by its MLS platform, Flexmls. Flexmls serves more than 130 MLSs and nearly 160,000 agents and brokers.

With strategic help from real estate consulting firm Clareity Consulting, last year Distil launched what it hoped would be an “industrywide intelligence network” to identify and thwart those who scrape real estate listing data without permission. The company raised $10 million in a funding round earlier this year.

Distil’s product covers more than 10,000 Flexmls-powered websites, said FBS spokeswoman Kim Prior.

“Here at FBS, we’re focused on delivering the very best product supported by world-class service. Naturally, providing the highest level of security is part of that equation,” she said in a blog post.

Distil acts as a shield between a website and end users, identifying “bad bots” (programs that scrape data) and only letting through legitimate traffic, including “good bots” like search engines.

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“[N]o more form spam, click fraud, malicious traffic, nor content (or) data theft,” said Charlie Minesinger, Distil director of channel partners, in a statement.

In order for Distil to work at its best, websites all across the industry need to sign up for Distil’s network, so that a “bad bot” blocked once cannot then go to another, unprotected listing site and “feast all they want,” Clareity’s Matt Cohen said at the time of Distil’s real estate product launch.

Cohen applauded FBS for being the first major MLS vendor to implement anti-scraping for all its customers.

“MLSs have spent millions of dollars going after screen-scrapers in court — and that’s just going after the ones that have been careless enough to be caught. It’s much more effective just to stop the theft in the first place. By implementing anti-scraping technology, FBS has taken an important first step in protecting its customers’ intellectual property in the MLS system,” Cohen said in a statement.

“FBS is setting a new standard for MLS data security and providing the basis for an MLS to require their IDX vendors, RETS (Real Estate Transaction Standard) feed users, agent (and) broker sites, and portals to have comparable protections on their websites.”