Digital signature software is a powerful business tool that provides your customers, employees, vendors, and other partners the ability to fill out and sign documents online. Contracts, non-disclosure agreements, employment applications, forms, and dozens of other business documents can be executed in a web browser. This technology is secure, legally robust, and efficient, and saves all parties time, money, and hassle.
Many people use the terms “e-signature” and “digital signature” interchangeably. However, an electronic signature and a digital signature are two different types of consent, from both a legal and a technological perspective.
If a signature is digital, electronic, or written by hand on paper the old-fashioned way, the intent is the same. All three forms of signature indicate that the party signing a document agrees to the terms therein.
An e-signature, or electronic signature, technically describes a variety of types of electronic approval allowed under e-signature law. In particular, the ESign Act, which is the federal law guiding esignatures in the U.S., defines an e-signature as follows:
an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record
Let’s makes sense of this definition. Practically, an e-signature could be a graphical stamp, a process, or even an audio file … not what first comes to mind when you think of a “signature.” An e-signature could be something as simple as a button that says “place order” (as is common on e-commerce websites) or as complex as a biometric signature.
For your business, however, it is critical to remember that while there are a wide variety of electronic signature types, not all of them have the same legal weight. A signature’s authentication, integrity, and security must be verifiable in order to be defensible in court. Most businesses require a handdrawn, or biometric, signature or similar form of unique authentication when executing a binding contract. Today, there is easy-to-implement and easy-to-use electronic signature software that achieves this higher standard.
A digital signature involves a two-way digital handshake, something like a key and a lock. You can think of a digital signature as a rubber stamp, with the addition of bits of unique data that are incorporated into the digital stamp for authentication and security.
Fingerprints are also a common analogy used to describe digital signatures; both include unique data that is proprietary to the individual and not visible to the naked eye. A true digital signature incorporates computer code to indicate whether a signer or anyone else has modified or tampered with a file after signing. Once the final digital signature has been applied, any change to the file will be easily visible.
Because a digital signature requires both the sender and recipient to have specific software, executing an agreement with a digital signature is more complex than using an electronic signature. Both signature types are legally binding and are used to prove consent and agreement.
Best of Both Worlds
Executing documents, contracts, and forms online offers a host of benefits for businesses. Deals are closed faster, customers are impressed with an efficient process, little or no ink or paper are wasted, and the expenses of overnight shipping are eliminated.
Digital signature technology offers excellent authentication for electronic contracts, but the process of applying a true digital signature can be complicated and off-putting for most users. That’s the reason why many companies choose a platform or a tool like RightSignature, which contains the most important elements of both e-signatures and digital signatures.