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Is the Digitized Signature valid?

The digitized signature is something that is increasingly present in our daily lives (messaging, merchandise receipts, accident reports…). The utilities are many and facilitates, both users and entities, the signature of any type of document, while helping the environment. However, would it be considered valid in the event of a lawsuit? In this article we explain it to you.

The digitized signature or biometric signature is nothing more than the handwritten signature captured through graphic tablets. More and more companies are opting for this option when it comes to having the customer sign delivery notes, receipts or even parts, because of the advantages they present. In addition, the pace of life we lead and the need to work from any device make this type of mobility solutions make our day to day easier.

It is very important to highlight that the validity of the digital signature is different in each country. However, in the case of the Member States of the European Union, last July 2016 the 910/2014 standard came into force, by which electronic identification is regulated in all member states. Thus, despite the fact that each state has its own law, there are guidelines that have to be complied with by all. For example, the validity of certificates issued in one member state in all other member states to contribute to the development of the Digital Single Market.

Based on the Spanish legislation, Law 59/2003, defines the electronic signature as:

“the set of data in electronic form, consigned together or associated with others, which can be used as a means of identification of the signatory.”

Specifically, in said law, and based on what is also established in the EU 910/2014 regulation, two types of electronic signature are given legal value:

  1. Qualified Electronic Signature: It is the electronic signature by means of digital certificate and that the law grants it the same value as the handwritten signature.
  2. Advanced Electronic Signature: In order for a signature to be considered an advanced electronic signature, it must have been created by means that the signer has exclusive possession of, identify the signer, detect subsequent changes made to the signature and be uniquely linked to the person signing.

Law 59/2003 attributes the same value as the handwritten signature to the qualified electronic signature -digital certificate-, so it seems difficult that the digitized or biometric signature -it would fall into the category of advanced signatures- can have the same value as this one.

This does not mean that, in case of conflict, it would not be legally valid. It simply means that it is necessary to demonstrate that it meets the requirements of the advanced electronic signature and to provide sufficient evidence.

Is the digitized signature or biometric signature legally valid?

In order for a digitized signature or biometric signature to be considered an advanced electronic signature, it must be able to identify the person who signed the document in question. Whether or not a digitized signature meets these requirements depends on the solution with which it was generated. Specifically, the digitalized signatures or biometric signatures generated through Viafirma, have legal validity because they comply with the following characteristics:

Biometric data capture

At the time of the signature, data such as stroke speed, pressure points, etc. are collected. All these data, together with the geolocation or the information of both the software and the hardware with which the signature is being produced, are encrypted.

This data is totally confidential, since, if any external person had access to this information, he/she could forge the signature. For this purpose, a public key from a certification authority (the trusted third party) is used, which holds the private key and will only decrypt the data if a judge asks it to do so. This ensures that the signature identifies the signatory, is uniquely linked to him and has been created by means that he holds exclusively.

Time stamping

Through time stamping, an electronic signature is made with all the aforementioned information from the Certification Authority. In this way, it is possible to know exactly when the document was generated.

In the same way, through time stamping, it is possible to know any modification that has been made to the document at a time subsequent to the moment of signature. Therefore, it provides authenticity. One of the main requirements of the advanced electronic signature.

All the information in a single PDF

Since everything is in a single PDF, this is the only file that would be required in a legal process because it contains all the evidence. Specifically, in the same document in which the signature is stamped, all the encrypted, encrypted and signed results are entered.

In the specific case of Viafirma, there is also a third application that is in charge of validating all the results generated and that, through the trusted third party, would allow the recovery of the biometric data of the signature and its delivery to an expert as evidence, in case of rejection of the digitalized or handwritten signature itself.

In conclusion, in the legal framework that regulates electronic signatures in Europe – eIDAS – and locally in Spain, qualified electronic signatures – through a digital certificate – are recognized as having the same validity as handwritten signatures. In the case of the advanced electronic signature, the regulations recognize its validity as long as there is sufficient evidence to prove the signer’s identity.

Thus, the digitized or biometric signature – as we saw above – can be considered as a simple electronic signature or it can fall into the category of advanced electronic signature, depending on whether it is accompanied by sufficient evidence to guarantee the signer’s identity, in which case it would be legally valid.

In this case, the solution chosen to carry out the digitized or biometric signature is the key factor. Thus, with applications such as Viafirma Documents, through the capture and encryption of biometric data, the time stamping and validation of all these encrypted results and subsequently included in the pdf where the signature has been stamped, provide sufficient evidence for the digitized signature generated to be considered an advanced electronic signature.


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