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For centuries now, a signature has been considered the signal of acceptance on paper. When contracts are drawn up, even with the prior agreement of both parties, a signature is required to consider that contract finalised. A signature is a mark of a person’s identity. It conveys the acceptance of a person to something. However, in today’s increasingly digital world, it is becoming rarer and rarer for contracts and agreements to be drawn up on paper. The world of communication has shifted to electronic mail and, so too, have signatures. E-Signatures can be very confusing however, so please refer to the below given guide to understand them fully.
What is an E-Signature?
An e-signature has all the qualities of a written signature, the only difference being that it is an electronic phenomenon. An electronic signature is a legal concept and can be as simple as a name entered into a document.
Although it may feel like it, this is no new concept. Signatures sent through the telegraph system were recognized from the 19th century onwards, and signatures through fax machines also came to be recognized in the 20th century.
Much like a written signature, an electronic signature is meant to provide a secure identification method to create smooth transactions. The legal definition and applicability of an e-signature may vary according to the laws of the region or the country.
Some common conditions are that the signature is unique, capable of identifying the signatory and linked to them. An e-signature may also require the signatory to be the only person with the ability to utilize the private key used to create the signature in the first place.
E-signatures can be created with varying levels of security depending on their use. Some may be able to prevent the original document from being altered after it is signed. This is because an electronic signature is binding. Once signed, the person cannot back out of the agreement except in a prescribed way.
Difference between digital signature and e-signature:
These two terms are often used interchangeably but are two different concepts that serve two purposes.
Digital signatures are generally used to protect documents and to certify their source. It is a unique characteristic that is embedded into a particular set of data. Driver’s licenses, passports and other documents all have digital signatures that are used to ensure that the document was issued by the right authority.
It is used to protect digital documents. An e-signature can be copied easily by hackers and frauds. A secure digital signature would help ensure that the document is edited only by the parties involved in the contract with their informed consent.
When a digital signature is applied to a document, the digital certification of that document is bound to the signature, creating a single, unique footprint of the two. This tends to make e-signatures more practical because their origin can be easily traced.
An electronic signature is generally used to signal agreement to a contract and can be anything ranging from some text, a symbol or sound. It can also be a simple electronic authorization, such as tapping the mouse or a button on the keyboard. The main characteristic of an e-signature is the intention to signal agreement to a document or a contract.
There may be many types of electronic signatures, but they are all legally binding. It also helps verify the authenticity of a document as the signatory party can be easily identified. However, this does not have as much security as a digital signature because the intention behind using an e-signature is not to protect the document but to agree to certain terms and conditions. Unlike digital signatures, they are usually not regulated by the authorities.
Benefits of e-signatures:
Authenticity: E-signatures are just as authentic as their handwritten counterparts. They are considered legally binding, trusted and enforced in most parts of the world. They can be very secure.
Efficiency: E-signatures improve efficiency considerably. The process of sitting down at a desk and slowly signing each page of paperwork can be left behind in the past. With an electronic signature, you can simply command your software to input your signature wherever required and can be done with the work in minutes.
Sustainable: E-signatures are very cost-effective. When documents and transactions take place digitally, the amount of paper that is used reduces drastically. This also helps the environment quite a bit while also saving your pocket the cost of said paper.
Convenience: E-signatures are very convenient as they can be used from any part of the world, at any time, given a working internet connection. The storage of digital documents is also very convenient as they do not require large amounts of storage space and data worth millions of terabytes can be saved within a device smaller than your hand. It is also much easier to access and preserve data when it is saved electronically because an electronic storage system tends to be much more systematic and unlikely to undergo decay.
Maintenance of the format: As an e-signature requires no printing or scanning, the text on a particular form or contract remains machine-readable. This immensely improves productivity as it allows you to focus on other tasks rather than reading through documents that have been signed by hand.
Ability to track workflow: E-signatures make it very easy to keep an eye on who has signed already, who has viewed the document and may be thinking the terms through and who is yet to open the document at all and is hence, holding your progress up. This is a good way to identify problems and solve them
E-signatures are a symbol of the new, modern world and as such require some effort on our parts to understand them. But as the dawn of the digital age draws closer, it is imperative that we make this effort. Electronic signatures can be confusing on their own but with websites like SignSimpli that are both trustworthy and easy to use, this process has never been simpler!