Basic concepts about electronic signatures in Spain

What is the electronic signature, digital signature or digitized signature, how can I obtain the digital certificate, what is it for, and the electronic invoice?

These terms may or may not ring a bell, but the truth is that a large part of the population has never heard of these concepts. Those who have, may be just as confused as those who are unfamiliar with this terminology.

For this reason, we are going to explain some of the basic concepts about electronic signatures in Spain:

Basic concepts about electronic signatures

  • What is an electronic signature?

According to Spanish law, this is the set of electronic data, entered together or associated with other data, which can be used as a means of identifying the signatory.

Although there are different types of electronic signatures, depending on their level of security, electronic signatures can be equivalent to handwritten signatures. Specifically, only the qualified electronic signature is.

  • What is a digital signature?

In Spain, it means more or less the same as electronic signature. Of course, they are technically different (digital signature is a type of electronic signature), but functionally both words are often used as synonyms. In LATAM, for example, these concepts vary from country to country.

  • Digitized signature

It is perhaps the easiest for the end user to understand. Why? Because it is the scanned handwritten signature itself, which is then inserted into a document.

However, a distinction must be made between types of digitized signature. Legally, imitating and scanning your handwritten signature to embed it in a document with a program is not the same as a signature that collects biometric information thanks to external devices such as tablets or touch screens.

  • Digital certificate

In order to use the electronic signature, we must first authenticate ourselves as the person we claim to be. For that we need a reliable electronic identity method. In this line, the digital certificate is our electronic identity.

Where can we obtain the digital certificate? You have the following options:

  1. Certification Authority (CAs): These are the organizations in charge of granting a digital certificate with a series of characteristics: they can be public (such as the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre) or private (firmaprofesional, camerfirma, ACCV, etc.).
  2. Signature Holder

It is a signature agenda, that is to say, a manager of the clients’ electronic signatures. In Viafirma we are proud to have one of the best in the market.

  • Electronic Invoice

The same as the traditional invoice, but everything is managed and signed electronically. However, to be considered an e-invoice, it must meet a series of minimum requirements; for example, it must be digitally signed.

  • Mobile electronic signature

This is an electronic signature made with a mobile device (smartphone, tablet, etc). Depending on the security requirements that the signature meets, it can be considered:

  1. Simple
  2. Advanced
  3. Qualified, the latter being the only one recognized by Spanish law, being equivalent to the handwritten signature as far as legality is concerned.

If you want to know more details about the concepts of electronic signature in Spain, we invite you to visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).


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