The days of putting pen to paper as the only form of signature are behind us. Today, almost any contract or document can be signed anywhere in the world with any device at anyone’s fingertips. Electronic and digital signatures are easier to acquire, more convenient, and, above all, legally binding. But are they different? 

They may sound interchangeable, but “digital signature” and “electronic signature” differ in multiple ways. eNotaryLog explains those differences and guides you through the signature world. 

What is an electronic signature? 

An electronic signature is the electronic form of a legally binding, wet-ink signature. However, an electronic signature doesn’t have to be an actual signature. It can be a symbol, a stamp, a scan of a handwritten signature, or even a voice message. All forms signify verification of an electronic form or document. 

The only thing needed for an electronic signature is that it shows the signer’s intent to sign. Electronic signatures are often used because they are straightforward to execute. Since it can be as simple as checking a box, most electronic signatures are used in contracts between two parties. The signature is legally binding, though it does not integrate any coding or digital certificate.  

An electronic signature is as simple as typing your name into an email or web form. One should use a digital signature for more important documents and actions. 

What is a digital signature? 

A digital signature requires more complex software and technical expertise to create. It acts as a digital fingerprint that is unique to its owner and embedded into the document. A digital signature binds the signer to the document and cannot be duplicated. The signatures utilize encryption standards so that authorities can certify the document’s authenticity and prevent tampering. 

A digital signature is a way to go when a document needs to be secured. 

Since a digital signature comprises unique characters in the body of a message or at the end of a document, it essentially “locks” the document and certifies its validity. Digital signatures are based on public key infrastructure (PKI) operations. Certificate-based digital ID is used for encrypting and decrypting the message itself, so the only one who can open it is the person or entity it is sent to. Through the PKI, recipients of the document can verify the signer’s identity, detect tampering, and establish authenticity.  

How are they legally binding? 

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) gives digital and electronic signatures the same legal status as written signatures. It states, “{A contract or signature} may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.” 

Digital Signature vs. Electronic Signature 

Is one better than the other? Both digital and electronic signatures serve different purposes. 

For businesses, a digital signature is the popular choice regarding contracts and binding paperwork. They are more secure and resistant to computer viruses. Also, digital signatures cannot be forged or stolen. 

Electronic signatures have fewer security features. However, they can still benefit businesses. These types of signatures can streamline workflows and ensure the documentation process is more efficient. 

In most cases, electronic and digital signatures are used in the documentation process. When both are used, businesses can verify the document’s authenticity digitally while using advanced electronic signatures to streamline the workflow. 

How are digital and electronic signatures used in remote online notarization (RON)? 

The notary’s digital signature is their seal because it is unique to them and shows if anything has been tampered with. The signer has an electronic signature on that document, but it is secure due to the notarization and the digital signature. 

How does eNotaryLog use electronic and digital signatures? 

On eNotaryLog’s platform, the notary is required to use a digital signature. The signer can use a simple electronic signature because the notary provides higher assurance or trust. 

An eSeal serves the same purpose for electronic documents as an ink seal, or embosser does for paper documents. It proves the document was notarized and provides information about the notary. The notary also takes steps to secure their digital seal and ensure no one else can use it without their knowledge. 

eNotaryLog uses the eSeal and the notary’s digital signature to establish the document’s authenticity. When the electronic document is opened, these items show the recipient that the document is  enforceable and can be legally relied upon in court or for government filing purposes. 

For even further security, eNotaryLog’s notaries also use digital certificates. A digital certificate verifies the notary’s identity and makes the document “tamper-evident.” Once the digital certificate is applied, no one can alter the notary’s digital signature or eSeal. This is usually applied last, after the seal and signature. 

Making the switch to eSignature and RON with eNotaryLog is easy and secure. Download the eNotaryLog app today on the App Store and Google Play to experience modern notarization’s convenience, efficiency, and security. With eNotaryLog, you can trust that your documents are in good hands and that you’ll take advantage of the latest technology to make notarizing easier. 

Subscribe to the eNL blog.

Keep up to date on the latest insights, news and events.

Continue Reading