Comment: eSignatures, the future, legality and security
This guest post from Ken Moyle, Chief Legal Officer at DocuSign outlines the use of eSignatures within businesses and addresses common concerns about legality, legibility and legitimacy. Ken frequently advises government agencies, lawmakers and industry executives on electronic signatures and records…
eSignatures are here to stay. Increasingly businesses are recognising the benefits of using electronic consent rather than its outdated paper counterpart. Yet throughout history there is always a reluctance to adopt new technology. Change. It happens every day, every moment, everywhere. Yet humans are naturally a wary species and always seem to find a reason why the new and often better way to do something, isn’t the right way. Since 2003 one of the biggest challenges for DocuSign has been convincing the world that electronic signatures are safe for business, especially in areas where trust is key, such as the property market. Electronic signatures are safe, secure, and legally binding, the argument for not adopting them has no ground left to stand on.
Digital is the new analogue, from fax to TVs, from having to sign in person to giving consent on the move, from anywhere. Juniper Research predicts there will be more than 1 billion BYOD devices by 2018. The use of mobile devices is on the rise in business and undoubtedly this will continue. Replacing traditional wet ink signatures with electronic signatures can speed up return times, reduce errors and mistakes, and decrease negative environmental impact – especially when made so convenient through mobile device signing.
In commerce and under the law, an electronic signature is used by a signer to show they agree with the intentions laid out in a contract. DocuSign enables you to sign with your finger, upload a scanned image of your signature, or type in your name and select from a variety of signature styles to DocuSign a document. The DocuSign mobile app allows the person to sign anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device. Whichever option is chosen, the signature is a completely valid electronic signature. This signature will be associated with a unique identifier so that every document signed will be recorded as DocuSigned by that single person only. eSignatures replace flipping through stacks of paperwork, as well as printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting.
Would it stand up in court?
Electronic signatures are not only admissible as evidence, but the fact that all of the circumstances around the signing ceremony can be verified independently means that regulated forms of eSignatures have higher authentication criteria than regular handwritten signatures. This legal strength is due to the robust authentication data captured by online signature software, which provides digital evidence of who signed a document, as well as when, where, and how they did it.
Why do businesses need to adopt a special solution to allow for them to reap the benefits of eSignatures? Why isn’t a scan of a signature input into a document enough? It can count as a valid signature but it doesn’t have the added benefits of encryption and if used in court the argument for tampering and therefore making it invalid, is an easy one for a good lawyer to put forward. When you DocuSign a document you have the security that it is legally binding, even if used in court and the encryption used means it won’t get into the wrong hands.
In addition to common law recognition of electronic signatures, the UK Electronic Communication Act of 2000 makes it clear that legally required “writings” can be signed electronically and retain their legal effect.
Another fear factor about using eSignatures is security, but again this is one that is completely irrational. People find a cabinet full of paper reassuring, but why? Is it safer there than in the cloud? eSignatures allow the digital storage of contracts and speed up the entire contracting process to create a better experience for all involved.
Every eSignature provider has some level of security included in their solution but there are different lengths provider will go to to ensure data and document safe. DocuSign boasts three geo-dispersed, SSAE 16 audited datacentres with 24/7 security, near real-time secure data replication and encrypted archives. DocuSign is currently the only Digital Transaction Management company that has been certified to ISO 27001:2005 international security standards. This level of security is much higher than other similar companies provide and can be compared to that provided by the emergency services. This enables levels of security that a filing cabinet just can not provide.
eSignature solutions are the safest option. Advanced encryption methods and a range of authentication options ensure that document integrity is not compromised. DocuSign is tamper-proof and DocuSigned documents are tamper-evident, so that you can trust that documents remain safe and secure long after DocuSigning. Can you say the same for a document in a cabinet?
Security on Your Terms to Meet Your Compliance Needs
Digital Transaction Management (DTM) has emerged as a new category of cloud services to digitally manage document-based transactions. DTM removes friction inherent in transactions that involve people, documents, and data to create faster, easier, more convenient and secure processes. DocuSign has recently announced the general availability of the new DocuSign Security Appliance. The unique solution provides DocuSign DTM platform customers have the option of encryption key management and auditing for their DocuSign documents behind their firewall. This allows customers to realise the benefits of cloud-based DTM while meeting their specialised security requirements.
The next step
Yes there are a range of arguments against eSignatures, but do any of them stand up? No. There are a lot of businesses that are afraid of trying new things and taking new approaches. eSignatures present a real advantage to businesses and companies such as Red Bull, ComCast, HP and many others have experienced the benefits moving towards being a 100% digital business can bring.