Electronic vs Digital – What's the difference?

Like any technological advance, the world of electronic signatures has its own terminology and naming conventions. In fact, the language around signatures can be quite confusing if you're not au fait with the different terms and what's more, they can all have different legal status'.

In this article we take a look at what the different names mean and how they differ from each other as well as their status within the legal system. If you would like to speak to one of our expert team about our e-signature platform, you're welcome to call us on 0333 335 5176 or get in touch.

Electronic signatures

An "electronic signature" does just what it says on the tin. It replaces a wet ink signature with a signature in electronic format; this could be a signature written in ink which is then scanned and placed in the relevant part of a deed indicated by the conveyancer. It could also be a signature written onto the touch screen of a tablet or mobile phone, or a simple electronic tick in a box.

Digital Signatures

A "digital signature" is a much more secure method of gaining written proof of agreement from a signatory or witness because it is backed by a process which has previously confirmed the identity of the signatories.

Digital signatures are applied with a digital certificate which is only issued after verification of the signatory's identity by third party Certificate Authority. This makes the signature inordinately difficult to forge. While an electronic signature provides the visual comfort factor that the document has been duly signed, it is the digital signature that proves the integrity and authenticity of the signatory's mark. The signed document is also encrypted so that it cannot be altered after it is signed. Digital signatures have been legally accepted since the Land Registration Act of 2002.

For the past decade we have been offering electronic signature and digital signature technology that uses meta data such as email addresses, phone numbers and mobile geolocation data that links, identifies and verifies signatories and verifies 'liveness' of selfies uploaded from mobile devices, so that legal professionals can be assured that their clients are who they say they are.

There are two types of digital signature: "Advanced Electronic Signatures" and "Qualified Electronic Signatures".

Advanced Electronic Signatures

Under the electronic identification and trust services (eIDAS), Advanced Electronic Signatures must be capable of identifying the signatory; uniquely linked to the signatory; linked to the deed in such a way that any subsequent changes can be detected; and the signature must be made using an electronic signature creation service that the signatory makes under his or her sole control.

Qualified Electronic Signatures are so called because they are generated using the electronic signature platforms of service providers that meet the security standards demanded by the Information Commissioners' Office.

According to HM Land Registry's blog "Electronic signatures in conveyancing" the organisation hopes for a more seamless, digitised conveyancing service that minimises delays while combatting fraud.

"We believe Qualified Electronic Signatures are the right long-term component of that digital future. They have added security and the digital nature of the resultant document will enable joined-up and automated processing elsewhere in the transaction."

Get in Touch

If you would like to find out more about how VirtualSignature.com can help with your digital onboarding or discuss a particular solution that will fit your organisation's requirements, then give our team a call on 0333 335 5176 and we'll be pleased to demonstrate how the platform works.

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