A Reason to Celebrate E-Signatures on Both Sides of the Atlantic

A Reason to Celebrate E-Signatures on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Posted by John Jolliffe, European Government Relations Lead

Today is an important day at Adobe because it is National ESIGN Day in the United States. Sixteen years ago, Congress passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act ( ESIGN), which recognized electronic signatures as a valid form of transaction. While this day is a significant milestone in the normalization of electronic signature services in the United States, the adoption of e-signatures worldwide is still a work in progress.

The Adobe public policy blog has touched on the subject of electronic signatures several times over the last few months. That’s because the leadership of Adobe in this area isn’t just more of the Adobe technological magic that our customers have come to expect. It also has some pretty major policy implications.

Take our announcement this week of the Cloud Signature Consortium that is comprised of leading industry and academic organizations committed to building a new open standard for cloud-based digital signatures across the mobile and web – allowing anyone to digitally sign documents from anywhere.

The launch coincides with a new European Union regulation on e-signatures, known as eIDAS. eIDAS provides the legal basis for cloud-based digital signatures, where the digital certificate used to identify the signer is held in the cloud by a trusted third party, rather than on a smart card, USB drive or on a computer.

But unless someone actually builds a solution, the law is just a piece of paper, and the vision it espouses – of easy and ubiquitous signatures, where technology fades into the background and users just go about their business – goes unrealized. The Cloud Signature Consortium will make that vision a reality, making highly secure digital signatures a realistic prospect for everyone and delivering solutions that avoid reliance on a single vendor, application or platform. My colleagues from Adobe Document Cloud cover the announcement in detail here.

From a policy perspective, an open technological platform and ubiquitous, secure signature solutions are a major win. It means that businesses, governments and citizens will all find it easier to use the most secure kind of electronic signature, increasing the confidence that organizations and their customers have in technology.

It means that the technologies driving digital signatures will stay open, not proprietary and not reliant on solutions based on a small number of bilateral business partnerships. It means the move to paperless business processes can accelerate, which is a clear benefit to the environment, and it shows that a measure, designed in Europe and aimed at facilitating the EU internal market, can shape signature preferences and technology development in the rest of the world.

The eIDAS legislation could become a de factor gold standard for secure electronic signatures. The market is responding and customers are calling for such solutions. What will the rest of the world do? Countries that lack any legislation enabling digital signatures should urgently consider following the current EU model, and countries where enabling legislation exists, but do not yet recognize signatures based on remotely-held certificates, now have a roadmap to follow.

This is just one more reason to celebrate e-signatures today.

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