Are electronic signatures legal? Is a digital signature as good as a pen and ink signature? Are electronic signatures secure?
What are electronic signatures?
An electronic signature represents a person's act of signing an electronic document, similar to signing with pen and ink on a paper document.
Why use electronic signatures?
Electronic signatures let you take advantage of the speed, efficiency, and cost benefits of electronic documents over paper. Aside from the obvious advantages in printing costs, physical mailing, and associated delays, electronic documents are often easier to back up at multiple locations and keep secure.
Are electronic signatures legal?
Electronic signatures are legal in most parts of the world, including in the United States, Canada, the European Union, the UK.
In the US, the ESIGN Act of 2000, ensures the validity and legal effect of electronic signatures. Most wet signatures (pen and ink signatures) can be replaced with electronic signatures except for certain documents such as wills, codicils, and trusts, adoption and divorce paperwork, court orders, and other state specific documents.
In the EU, the eIDAS Regulation governs the use of e-signatures in all EU member states, replacing the eSignature Directive of 1999. Encyro E-Sign uses the CAdES profile offered by eIDAS. The UK established legality for e-signatures with the Electronic Communications Act of 2000, and now adheres to the eIDAS.
In Canada, Part 2 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) establishes the equivalence of e-signatures to their paper based counterparts.
In Australia, the Electronic Transactions Acts in the Commonwealth, States and Territories of Australia specifies the validity of e-signatures for most common business transactions.
Many other countries have established laws for e-signatures as well.
How do electronic signatures work?
Electronic signature providers often let the person signing the document type or draw their signature on an electronic device. That signature is then displayed on the document, just like an ink signature would have been.
Encyro E-Sign lets signing parties hand-draw, mouse-draw, or type, their signatures. Encyro E-Sign allows using hand drawn signatures even when signing on a computer without a touch screen or stylus: the signer draws their signature on their smartphone and the drawing appears in real time on the computer screen. No mobile app needs to be installed.
Encyro E-Sign additionally:
- Adds a tamper check to the document (using cryptographically secure digital signature technology) to ensure that the document is not modified after being signed. The signed file includes a web address where the documents may be checked for tampering (for free) by anyone who receives the signed file. No Encyro account is needed for using the tamper check service. (You may also check documents for tampering using the Adobe Acrobat Reader, on its "Signature Panel.")
- Records additional data related to the signing transaction, such as the signer's IP address, as is required for certain compliance standards.
- Adds audit trails to the end of the document, providing you a handy court admissible record of the electronic signature transaction.
Remote Electronic Signatures
Electronic signatures do not require all parties to be present in one place, since electronic documents are easy to make available at multiple locations. For cases where the electronic signature is executed remotely (not in the presence of the party requesting the signature, or all signing parties), the electronic signature process must use some means to check who is signing. The depth of this identity check depends on the sensitivity of the transaction.
Encyro E-Sign offers multiple options for identity checks, ranging from email authentication, password based logins, and temporary codes sent via text message (with cryptographic entropy and expiry requirements complying with US NIST SP 800-63).
Additionally, Encyro E-Sign optionally lets you force the use of hand drawn signatures for sensitive transactions. Such biometric signatures add further authenticity and enforceability to the signer's identity.
Ease of Use
Encyro E-Sign makes electronic signatures easy to use both for when you request someone to sign, and for the signing party.
- Encyro E-Sign does not require the signer to purchase or install any signature certificates. The signer simply accesses the document to be signed on the web and adds their signature.
- Additional form fields to be completed by the signer may be included in the document, besides the signatures. For instance, depending your needs for the document, you may require the signer to fill in a contract end date, job title, project name, delivery address, and so on.
- An easy to use web address is provided to check for tampering of the signed document. No Encyro account is needed to use this free service and the web address is included within the signed document for convenient access.
- Encyro E-Sign allows you as the signature-requester to add your branding to the signature request email and parts of the webpage where the user signs the document.
- For electronic signatures where an access code is required for the signer, such as for IRS form 8879, Encyro E-Sign automates the process by generating a US NIST 800-63 standards compliant access code and sending it to the signer when required.
- Encyro E-Sign lets a signer use their smartphone screen to draw their signature. The signature appears in real time on the computer screen where the document to sign has been opened. No mobile app is required to be installed (except on older Android phones, where a QR Code scanning app may be needed).
- Encyro E-Sign provides a sharp display for the document to be signed. The document stays sharp even when zoomed in and out. (Most other e-signature providers display the document pages as images, making the pages blurry if the signer zooms in.)
- Encyro E-Sign generates the final PDF file with Adobe Acrobat Reader compliant digital signature format, for users who wish to view the validity of the document signature in that program.
NOTE: Encyro does not provide legal advice. The above information is for general purpose only.