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What Is an Electronic Signature?

March 09 2023

Electronic signatures are a key part of doing business in our increasingly connected, mobile and remote workplaces. But what exactly is an electronic signature? In this article, we reveal some facts you might not know about eSignatures.

What are electronic signatures?

An electronic signature, also called an e-signature or eSignature, and sometimes referred to as a digital signature, is a legally recognized way to indicate a signer agrees to the contents of an electronic message or document. According to the U.S. E-Sign Act, an electronic signature is, "an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record." Let's explain what this legalese really means.

Today, eSignatures are everywhere, but when we say "eSignature," most people probably imagine a picture of a signature placed above a line on an official-looking document:

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This is the most literal example of an eSignature, but many people are surprised to find out that checking a box that says "I Agree" when signing up for a social media account or making an online purchase is also an "electronic signature" under the ESIGN act. While an electronic signature can take many different forms that may or may not look like your John Hancock, the key words in the ESIGN definition are process and intent.

The link between process and intent

Whether signing manually or digitally, for a signature to be legal, the signer must have demonstrated their intent to sign, or that they meant to agree and sign a digital record and didn't do it by accident. The key to demonstrating intent to sign is the signing process. There must be a sufficient number or combination of steps—clicking an obvious link to a signing ceremony, using a mouse to draw a signature, and/or checking a box that clearly says "Accept"—to show intent. Theoretically, any process that demonstrates intent to sign could constitute an eSignature.

An example of the eSignature process

The eSignature process is even more secure than traditional pen and paper, protecting you and your business. For example, Constellation1 eSign is a web-based, customizable, and secure eSignature solution, which uses an ironclad process to establish intent to sign to ensure all signatures are legally binding and non-repudiable (i.e., signers can't claim later that they never signed the document).

Here's an overview of how the electronic signature process works, using Constellation1 as an example:

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First, the signer receives a notification via email or text message to access their signing ceremony.

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Next, the signer customizes their signature options, either by hand-drawing a signature or choosing a stylized signature for their name.

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Next, the signer reviews the document and has to tap or click the screen to add their signature to the required fields. Documents may also contain check boxes and other fields.

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Lastly, before the signing ceremony is complete, the signer has to agree a final time to submit their signatures.

To view the original article, visit the Constellation1 blog.

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