Being Reliably Appropriate with Digital Signatures

Each time I install some new software I am asked to sign to agree to the software license for that product. To do this, I click on the box that says “I Agree”. If you have read that last sentence carefully you may be thinking that clicking a box is not ‘signing’ a document. Surely there needs to be some process that mimics a physical signature on a piece of paper?

Not at all! Most countries now have some sort of legislation that recognizes business will be transacted electronically. In Australia and New Zealand this is the Electronic Transactions Act.  The legislation lays down the requirements for valid e-signatures. These include being able to demonstrate the identity of the signer and demonstrating their intent. The other test is that the method used to sign the document is “as reliable as appropriate for the purpose”.

There is no need for any process that looks like a traditional signature. So, a tick box is a legal signature. With your software license there is no option to do anything but agree to the standard document. For this case, a tick box is likely to be as reliable as appropriate for the purpose.

Beyond these absolutely standardized documents, the trick is knowing what you are agreeing to.

The Western Australian courts recently found that a series of email messages constituted a legally binding contract. No tick box in sight, just the send button – repeatedly. Of course it took a court case or two, and who knows how much money to get an understanding that there was a contract and what was agreed.

To avoid this complication in your life there is a better alternative. Signing electronic documents online using a PKI based digital signature gives everybody a crystal clear understanding of who is agreeing to what.

A digitally signed electronic document is better than a tick box, or a simple electronic signature, in two important ways.

The first is that the signature is tied to the document content. If anything changes in the document, the signature is no longer valid. This is usually checked every time the document is opened. The second is that the digital signature creates an irrevocable link between the signer and the document. The signature cannot be forged nor copied to another document.

In these ways, the PKI based digital signature is as reliable as appropriate for any circumstance. If it’s important enough to sign, then anything other than a true digital signature isn’t good enough.

Secured Signing allows you to sign, or invite someone to sign, your document or form with a personal PKI digital signature for the price of a stamp. Register for a free account and securely sign your first electronic document now.

Till next time