Electronic Signatures-Esign Origins, Understanding Laws, and the Affects

On June 30, 2000, President Clinton signed the “Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act” (ESIGN) using his electronic signature ID and thus established the validity of electronic signatures for interstate commerce. and international.

In the four years prior to the passage of this Act, a dozen states had passed similar laws and guidelines for specific state business purposes, and in the five years since the passage of the Act, all other states have passed laws and similar laws. What does all of this mean, and in the end, how can it benefit businesses, individuals, and the nation or the world at large?

The best way to answer a question like this is to take a look at the origins of the law and understand the reasoning behind its passage and the passage of specific state laws.

The birth of the electronic signature: sending faxes

In the 1980s, businesses and even some progressive individuals began to use fax machines for the delivery of high-priority or urgent paper documents. Today, the fax machine is a staple of the business world. Most people do not even consider the original obstacles that this new medium created, nor do they consider its impact on the speed of communication and the advantages of its use. However, in its infancy, many of the same problems related to electronic communications and electronic signatures had to be solved when using the fax.

When the first contract was signed and faxed, it laid the groundwork for the debate on the validity of the electronic signature. After all, it was the first time someone could sign something, put it on a machine, send it from one phone line to another, and deliver a digitally reproduced signature. The path this firm took was neither controllable nor traceable, and in most cases it traversed miles of cable before reaching its destination, so how could it be considered a valid signature? The intentions of the firm were clear to everyone, but companies wanted to know that they could count on the validity of the signature, and if no one witnessed the action of an individual or a corporation, how could a company trust them? she? This, of course, caused quite a stir and the courts quickly ruled that this signature had the same validity as if the parties were together in the courtroom. With this, faxing became a standard operating procedure throughout the world.

Courts found validity in this signature capture method, and companies felt safe using this method as well E-signature. Quite a leap of faith considering the complications caused by fax machines from the start. Many people did not realize that the ink from the original fax paper would disappear after a period of time and that they had to make another copy of the fax with a copier if they wanted to store it permanently. Also many times the image quality was poor or barely legible, but companies understood the intent and would consider it signed even if there was only a partially legible signature. So in essence you had a copy of a copy of a digital image, and even with so many loopholes for alteration and embezzlement, the fax still worked and the business was flourishing.

The business logic behind this thinking was easily justifiable. Before the fax machine, the contract could have been verbally signed between the seller and the customer, and then somewhere along the way a paper copy would have been signed and mailed. Many pre-fax machine sales were consummated with a simple “OK, let’s do it” comment over the phone. This drive to do business and spin the wheels shows that the most vital point in a world based on electronic communications, or for that matter in a digital world without physical or direct contact, is that most companies can operate with confidence. . They provide a service to a customer and the customer trusts that they will provide that service satisfactorily, while the service provider trusts that the customer will pay for the services provided.

Trust is not a new thing in business; It was often indicated by a handshake or “You have a deal,” and that was all it took to close a deal. Has that changed today? I think the answer is no, but what about the courts and their opinion on the validity of the electronic signature? After all, the goal of the courts is not just to keep the wheels turning and generate income, so why did they trust this type of firm and what was the legal question this firm answered? This line of thought brings us back to the Law of Electronic Signatures in National and Global Commerce or, as it is more commonly known

The Signature Appearance Is Only a Claim

Any name or other information, such as the time of signature, that appears on a document is not by itself necessarily proof of identity, etc. The information placed in the appearance of the signature is under the control of the party creating the signed document.In the case of Acrobat, the signer can configure the appearance to be what they want and, similarly, in MS Office, the Signer can provide text / graphics as required. Even if these configuration controls were not available in the application, due to the characteristics that electronic documents commonly have of being able to represent information in any way that the author requires, it would not be possible to ensure that any appearance created automatically cannot be manually. falsified by the signer of the document.

This fact does not denigrate the importance of the appearance of the signature by providing a means for the signer to indicate his intention when applying the signature. The very fact that the appearance is under the control of the author means that it directly represents the intention of the signer. The appearance of the signature should be considered distinct from the digital signature which is linked to the appearance and provides a means of verifying its authenticity.

The appearance of the signature must be visually verified with the digital signature.

The digital signature linked to the appearance of the signature should be used to verify that the appearance of the signature is authentic As the digital signature is created using a certified key, which is known to belong to an identified person, it can be used to verify authenticity and integrity of the signed document. However, because the digital signature is invisible and does not appear directly within the document, it cannot be used to indicate intent through its appearance within the document.

Verifying the appearance of the signature versus the digital signature can be done visually by reading a document by displaying the signature verification information. The reader can visually compare the verification information with the signature as it appears on the document.

The ETS1 team working on PDF advanced electronic signature standards has taken into account the possibilities of automatically comparing the appearance of the signature with the digital signature. However, it was considered that a fraudulent signer could provide information in a way that could mislead the verification about what is displayed and how it is linked to the digital signature. Therefore, it was decided that the safest way is to visually verify the appearance and verification information. Rather, the human reader should be helped to visually compare the verification information derived from the digital signature with the appearance of the signature, providing information in a way that the two can be easily related.

Human understanding of advanced electronic signature verification

Since the verification of the digital signature against the appearance of the signature must be performed by a human being, who may not be aware of digital signature technology, the verification must be presented in a way that can be clearly understood Esign. Generally, the person who reads a document and wants to verify the signature will have little or no understanding of digital signature certificates.

Clearly, the reader must be shown whether the signature is valid. However, there will be situations where the validity of the signature is unknown or the signature is even considered invalid. In which case, basic information should be provided to help the reader understand why the signature is not known to be valid. If possible, this should be provided in simple non-technical terms so that the reader can make a basic assessment, but this should be supported by detailed information that can be used by an expert in the situation where the validity of the signature is of of utmost importance (for example, in case of legal dispute).