Modern and competitive businesses use electronic signatures (eSignatures) to make document transactions fast and easy. From frontline employees to chief business executives, small businesses and big companies use eSignatures. They’re already a part of day-to-day operations in modern businesses.
This modern and innovative way to accept, process, and send signed documents is gaining popularity. However, many people are wondering if eSignatures are safe. In this article, you’ll learn whether eSignatures are safe and suitable for your business.
For you to have a better idea if eSignatures are safe to use, it pays off knowing the basics first.
What Are eSignatures?
Electronic signatures or eSignatures refer to signatures written virtually or online. They’re made and affixed using electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets, usually with a digital pen.
There’s always an opportunity to shift from traditional to digital document signatures. Do you need to send, email, or scan a document? You can use eSignatures for terms of service agreements, contracts, non-disclosure agreements, liability waivers, reports, petitions, and HR forms.
For example, schools and universities can use eSignature software to streamline enrolment forms, grant proposals, applications, approvals, and even donations. On the other hand, accountants can use it to hasten tax return submissions and keep client data secure. Insurance companies use eSignature solutions to process claims faster, boosting productivity and improving customer experience.
There are many advantages of using eSignatures, which include the following:
- Fast and Easy: With an electronic signature service, you can effortlessly sign digital documents. You can also send, track, and gather signatures in just a few minutes.
- Promotes Collaboration: You can invite other people to sign via email. In addition, your recipients can type texts and upload a handwritten signature. They can also create an eSignature using a stylus pen, trackpad, or computer mouse.
- Get Instant Notifications: Every time someone signs a document, you’ll receive a notification via email in real-time. Then you can click on the link attached to the email to download the document.
- Close More Deals Faster: When document signing is fast and easy, you’ll also close more contracts and deals. Your clients, investors, and other stakeholders won’t have to wait for days or weeks for the results of business transactions. With eSignatures, approval of terms and conditions is seamless. The same is true with signing legal documents, portable document formats or PDFs, and invoices.
- Legally Compliant: Electronic signatures are already recognized by law, which means they’re legally compliant.
The Legal Bases Of Digital Signatures
In many countries, like the US, Canada, and the UK, legislations permit and outline the legal use of eSignature Technology. The legal bases of digital signatures include the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act). These legislations help ensure the defensibility of eSignatures and the validity of electronically signed contracts.
What is the difference between UETA and the E-Sign Act? E-Sign pertains to a federal law enacted by the federal government that applies in all states. On the other hand, UETA refers to a state law that only applies in several states. It means that not all states enforce UETA.
For eSignatures to be valid and enforceable, the following factors must be present:
- Intent To Sign: eSignatures are valid if all parties have the intention to sign the contract, just like traditional signatures.
- Consent: All parties must have consent to carry out business transactions electronically. The consent should include a UETA consumer consent disclosure, agreement to use electronic records, and the signature’s association with the record.
- System Capture: There should be a system to capture the eSignature transaction. It should create a record of the process when capturing eSignatures. For instance, a text statement or a graphic statement can prove that the transaction involves using eSignatures.
- Record Retention: Retention of records for all transactions and accurate reproductions must be available to all parties.
- Certificate of Completion: Certification is crucial in eSignatures, which must include all the names of the signatories, authentication history, related email addresses, IP addresses of all signatories, and time stamps, The chain of custody must also be followed. This means that a list of people who send, view, store, and sign the documents must be recorded and tracked properly.
Electronic Signature Solutions: How To Find Secure Services
When looking for an eSignature service provider, it’s important to go beyond the bare minimum. This is important to ensure the utmost security of electronic records. These providers offer eSignature solutions such as software programs that businesses can use to collect eSignatures.
Find one that can offer proof or a method to show records of who signed the documents. It should also include which documents were signed, the dates, and the IP addresses where the documents were signed. In this way, you have an assurance of integrity and accuracy. Your clients, investors, partners, and employees will also have greater faith in your digital or electronic records.
Here are the important things to consider when choosing an eSignature service provider:
- Security: For the safety of all your eSignatures and electronic business transactions, find a provider that prioritizes security. For instance, you can choose one that uses blockchain technology. This tracks every stage of the process from the creation of the documents until the signing of concerned parties. This technology can help safeguard the authenticity and legality of documents, which prevents any type of tampering. Another security feature is the advanced encryption standard 256-bit encryption that’s commonly used to secure bank transactions.
- Geo-Location Feature: This feature should be an important consideration when choosing a service provider. It captures the exact location of a document eSignature. This can also identify whether the document was signed from a mobile device or a home computer.
- Cloud Storage: Choose a service provider that can store electronic records in the cloud, so you can access them anytime and anywhere securely.
- Variety Of Options: It’s important to pick a service that allows you to sign digital documents in various ways. Some examples include drawing your eSignature, typing your signature, uploading your signature, and signing with a digital pad.
- Sufficient Evidential Weight: It’s important to choose an eSignature technology solution with sufficient evidential weight. When assessing evidential weight, the court takes into account how the signatories were identified. The measures to prove the integrity of electronic records should be reliable. Weak electronic signatures have less weight when legal issues arise.
- Compliance: If your job entails compliance with specific standards, choose an eSignature solution that’s easy to comply with. eSignature software for patient documentation, for instance, requires compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA. This rule pertains to individually identifiable health information or patient data as ‘Protected Health Information.’ This includes the patient’s physical and mental health condition, and all data relating to their healthcare services and health insurance.
Identity Authentication: eSignatures Vs Handwritten Signatures
Handwritten signatures often depend on identity safeguards. For instance, you need to have a witness or require signatories to write their name near their handwritten signature. However, these methods can cause authentication issues like witnesses denying their presence or participation in a transaction.
On the other hand, eSignatures have different authentication methods to know the identity of the signatories. With electronic communications, identifying signatories use more robust authentication methods, such as the following:
- User-specific URLs
- One-time-PINs sent via email or text message
- Dashboard log-in credentials (usernames and passwords)
How To Use eSignatures Securely
One of the most important parts of letter closings in business emails is your eSignature. This method is secure and with legislation backup. However, before you use that signature, it is crucial to take extra precautions when electronically signing documents.
Keep in mind the following tips when using signatures securely:
- Read and Understand: Like signing a real document, make sure to read the electronic contract or terms and conditions before affixing your signature. All details and elements must be included. Once you electronically sign a document, it’s valid and binding just like traditional contracts or agreements.
- Don’t Rush: Just because you’re signing an electronic contract, it doesn’t mean that you cannot take your time to study and review the terms and conditions in it. If you’re busy and can’t sign yet, then leave it for later. The recipient will get a notification once you sign the document.
- Ask Questions: If you have doubts or concerns about the details of the documents, you can always ask the sender. It’s very easy to edit digital documents, so this should be a primary concern.
- Verify The Source: When doing business transactions online, you need to verify the source of the document. Don’t just affix your digital signature without researching about the party requesting your eSignature.
Electronic signature services are safe to use when they have security features and are compliant with regulations. The UETA and the ESIGN solidify the legal landscape for using eSignatures and electronic records, particularly in eCommerce. With the right elements, digital signatures and contracts have the same legal weight and validity just like wet ink signatures.