In the digital era, where privacy is at the heart of discussions and concerns, where debates are fuelled by Edward Snowden’s revelations and where lawsuits are initiated by European legislators against Facebook and Google, many people are questioning the influence of the Internet on tomorrow’s society and its impact on our habits, values and fundamental rights that govern our everyday life in the real world.
Internet experts, legislators and several privacy protection groups believe that the fight over privacy policies and the monitoring of personal data will extend into the next decade. However, they are split down the middle when it comes to the likely future of online privacy. Advocates of a “Public Internet” believe that governments and companies will continue to increase the already widespread monitoring of personal data from our private lives, and the analysis and monetization of our personal information. As for advocates of the “Private Internet,” they are confident that new approaches will emerge to enable individuals to better control their identities and access their personal information.
Setting the debate regarding how we should protect our identity and our personal information aside, there can be no doubt that we are more exposed than ever. In fact, the Web forces us to increasingly share our personal data to obtain information and to exchange and/or make purchases. However, why do we have to do so in the virtual world, when in reality, we can go into a shop, ask for advice and complete a purchase without having to give any personal information?
Moreover, as we enter the era of the “Internet of Things” in which connectivity and intelligence are woven into the world around us, individuals increasingly require technological communication and sharing tools that allow them to better protect their privacy and manage their online reputation. Furthermore, with the shift to a fundamentally digital economy, many organizations are trying to protect the confidentiality of their customers’, employees’ and partners’ information, as a way to distinguish themselves from competitors.
How can the Internet serve individuals and organizations without going against our rights, values and lifestyle? Is there a place for industries and sectors – such as healthcare, financial, legal and education – that are particularly sensitive to information confidentiality? How do we enable interactions between students and teachers or healthcare professionals and their patients if the confidentiality and ethical rules that govern these interactions in real life are not taken into account? Will the “public Internet” model, along with players like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and others, dictate the standards of our digital life that are a part of our daily lives in this mobile era? Is there a choice on the horizon?
These questions have remained at the discussion stage, while the main communication, social networking and shopping platforms are now struggling to provide adequate solutions to identity control and the personal information confidentiality of users.
At VA, we profoundly believe our real-life personas have the same rights as their digital counterparts. Convinced that technology should comply with the rules and habits of our lives, rather than the inverse, we therefore started this endeavors after noticing that the evolution of the Internet since the beginning of e-commerce until the social era came at the expense of our private lives.
Virtual Artifacts emerged mainly to review the current Web model and to offer an alternative to Internet users. We came up with the idea of leaving the “public” Web model to create a “private” universe that reflects the will of users to navigate without having to reveal private information, such as birthdates, addresses or credit card numbers. In fact, we envision to transform the digital space into the perfect setting to connect, communicate, and build relationships. We want to provide the best online experience through a synergistic product ecosystem that improves the way individuals, organizations and companies meet, socialize and transact in the digital space.
After several years of research and development, the company has developed an ecosystem consisting of breakthrough technologies (Hibe, Social X, Shopmedia, ThirdPay) to completely transform the way to connect, communicate and conduct transactions without compromising the fundamental right to privacy.
VA’s technologies, which are built on “private Internet” principles, aim to improve online interactions by creating a sharing and communication experience that takes into account the social contexts of actors to replicate the way they interact in real life. In other words, we believe that our online interactions and the laws governing them should not be different from those in real life. Thus, VA offers an alternative to existing online services that – since the advent of the Internet – have sacrificed the rules of real-life communication and networking for the commercial interests of businesses.