An electronic signature, also known as an e-signature, is a digital version of the paper-based method of signing signatures. It allows a person to electronically add a signature to a digital contract or document, thereby removing the need for ink and paper.
It allows a person to electronically add a signature to a digital contract or document within a secure setting.
E-signatures have been officially defined by the EU regulations on e-signatures (eIDAS) as “data in electronic form - attached to or associated with - other data in electronic form and used by the signatory to sign”.
There are many reasons why e-signatures might be used in place of their traditional, handwritten counterparts. The key benefit is speed. By removing physical logistics in paper methods, doing business using e-signatures is made much easier, especially when required across international waters.
Not only does it streamline the document signing process, making it easier to access from databases and the cloud, but it helps save on costs, breathing efficiency into tasks like long-winded audit trails.
Essentially, automating the validation and archiving of signed documents will save a lot of time and money. It’s also very environmentally friendly as with every electronic signature you sign in place of physically putting pen to paper, you reduce your ecological footprint.
The term “e-signature” is often used as a synonym for “digital signatures” but in fact, the two shouldn’t be used interchangeably as their meanings are not equal.
The easiest way to distinguish between electronic and digital signatures is to know that the latter can be used in other contexts than signing a document, such as SSL certificates and cookies for ad-tracking.
This is because digital signatures embed an encrypted digital code into the signing process to verify that it was created by a known source and has not been altered. This is called a Personal Key Infrastructure or “PKI” and guarantees that an electronic document is authentic by identifying both the requesting party and the party providing a signature. By generating two keys (one private and one public) the PKI technology uniquely identifies the person who is signing. However, both parties involved in this process must have a digital certificate registered from an issuing certificate authority as this links the signature to its owner.
While digital signature and electronic signature are both equally capable of capturing legal signatures and identifying signees, it is the above process of identification within digital signatories that differentiates it from electronic signatures. Especially since many consumers do not have a digital signature certificate.
At CM.com, we use the term electronic signature as that is the specific form of a digital signature we offer. However, we use “digital signature” as an umbrella term in the context of signing a document.
Our Sign electric signature solution allows you to complete contracts, agreements, and documents fast and secure without unnecessary printing and scanning.
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