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The validity of handwritten signatures

It is at least paradoxical to doubt about the the validity of a handwritten signature saying that it isn’t equivalent to a “qualified electronic signature” whose “raison d’etre” is precisely its equivalence to a handwritten signature. Convoluted, ins’t it?

We should not forget this basic premise: handwritten electronic signatures (biometrics, digital or any other word used to named it) it’s still a handwritten signature regardless if made on paper, signing on a tablet, in a ipad or at the door of a toilet. In some countrys are very graphic differentiation terminology referring to the “wet signature” when talking about the signature on paper, and “electronic/digital signature” to refer to that “stamped” in electronic format.

The handwritten signature, the traditional one, has always had the value that has been given to the possibility to prove, at a later time and based on samples, that a particular signature has “apparently” been made by a specific person, and we use it as evidence, “a priori”, by the power of habit. But really it is not a means of “a priori” evidences,  but “a posteriori”. Ie,  in case of dispute, if the signature is challenged, It must establish their validity or invalidity by providing sufficient evidence: report of a handwriting expert, context information, … But this does not make it foolproof, there may be times when it is not possible the attribution of a signature to a specific person, for example, if there are no samples to check or that the person signed voluntarily or otherwise than as usual.

The main contribution of qualified electronic signatures is that in this case it establishes a presumption of validity by legal means when article 5.1.a of Directive 1999/93/EC of the European Parliament says: “satisfy the legal requirements of a signature in relation to data in electronic form in the same manner as a handwritten signature satisfies those requirements in relation to paper-based data”. Still, the electronic signature does not offer a legal certainty “perse”, for example the spanish electronic signature law says: “If it disputes the authenticity of the qualified electronic signature with which data into the electronic document have been signed, it will be verified that this is an advanced electronic signature based on a qualified certificate, which meets all requirements and conditions … and the signature was generated using a secure signature-creation device (SSCD)”. The problem is, in many cases, to demonstrate the use of a SSCD, which in many of the Certification Service Providers (CSP) than issue qualified certificates could be a daunting task. Anyway, we could give to qualified electronic signatures a presumption of validity “a priori”.

Article 5.2 of mentioned European Directive concludes,“Member States shall ensure that an electronic signature is not denied legal effectiveness and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in electronic form, or not based upon a qualified certificate, or not based upon a qualified certificate issued by an accredited certification-service-provider, or not created by a secure signature-creation device”.

ViD Signer, the electronic signature service developed by Validated ID meet all necessary requirements to be considered on the basis of Directive 1999/93/EC as an advanced electronic signature. We recognize the value of the qualified electronic signatures and we use them in our projects, but we also want to claim the value of the other options under the law.

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