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What’s the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures?

Digital signatures vs. electronic signatures: what’s the difference?

Electronic signatures (eSignature) are often mistaken to be equivalent to digital signatures, but there are many important differences. 

An eSignature can be as simple as a typed name, initials, or a scanned handwritten signature that is then added to a document. The weakness of eSignatures as a signing method is that there is sparse regulation of how they should be implemented and the security behind them is entirely dependent on how the vendor has designed the software.


Tamper-proof document combining eSignature and digital signature

When an eSignature is combined with a digital signature, you receive a signed document that is tamper-proof and allows you to see any changes that may have been made to the document after signing. The digital signature uses a unique fingerprint that creates a certificate for the document at the time of signing and this is permanently embedded into the file. This makes it vendor-independent and totally tamper-proof. 

The main thing to keep in mind is that an electronic signature is generally used to collect someone else’s signature, while a digital signature is used to add your own signature to a document to prove its authenticity.


Electronic signature

An electronic signature is a legally binding signature that is used with the intent of signing an electronic record. The record (or document) is generally prepared and sent using a specialized e-signature solution provider such as GetAccept, and the signee can simply e-sign via email and SMS with just a touch of a button.

According to the E-SIGN Act established in 2000 by the U.S. Congress, “no contract, signature, or record shall be denied legal effect solely because it is in electronic form. Nor may a contract relating to a transaction be denied legal effect solely because an electronic signature or record was used in its formation.” In other words, an electronic signature holds as much value as a handwritten signature.


Benefits of signing a document electronically 

If you’re asking yourself if there are any benefits of signing a document electronically vs. by hand, the answer is yes. Unlike a handwritten signature that can be forged, reputable e-signature providers offer detailed audit trails that keep track of who signed what, how, when, and where. 

Furthermore, adding multiple authentication methods like question & answer, password or signing in through 3rd party accounts like LinkedIn or Google can be used to demonstrate intent to sign. 

Additionally, if a signature from a different stakeholder is required - signing rights can easily be forwarded and transferred to a new individual without the entire document needing to be reissued.

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