Different Types Of Electronic Signatures.

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Did you know a digital signature isn’t the same as an e-signature? If you’re curious about the different types of QES, AES or SES electronic signatures, you’ve come to the right place.

In fact, electronic signatures officially hold the same weight as ink signatures. When the ESIGN Act of 2000 passed, it officially recognised e-signatures as legally binding in foreign commerce. However, every country has different specific rules on electronic signatures (see our country by country articles below) and showing proof in court.

To start, you’re going to want to read up on the different types of electronic signature. And the different terms, which often sound like they could be interchangeable but are in fact, not.

Have no fear, we’ve laid them all out below. 

Electronic Signature 

Importantly, you may see this often referred to as e-sign or e-signature, eSignature, eSign or Standard Electronic Signature (SES). In fact, these are all the same thing. They refer to the act of signing a document online. 

Digital Signature

Firstly, this is the one that will trip up most people. A digital signature is a type of electronic signature with more security than a standard electronic signature. The digital signature is an algorithm determining the authenticity of software or a document. Moreover, this digital signature helps authenticate the signature to ensure it has kept its integrity through the process of sending to various recipients. In reality, these are generally only used for government systems and banks for high-level protection. In other words, think of digital signatures as a virtual fingerprint compared to electronic signatures as photo identification. 

Advanced Electronic Signature (AES)

Secondly, an advanced electronic signature (AES) is a type of digital electronic signature with the following capabilities:

  • uniquely linked to the signatory;

  • capable of identifying the signatory;

  • created under the signatory’s sole control; and

  • linked to other electronic data in such a way that any change to the data can be detected.

Qualified Electronic Signature

Finally, a QES is a specific digital electronic signature that has been verified with the particular specifications of a government. Moreover, this includes using a secure signature creation device, and certification as  ‘qualified’ by said government. Importantly, a QES doesn’t increase the security of a document, it only reduces the burden of proof if a legal dispute arises. 

Legality of E-signatures

In the EU, the new eIDAS Regulation has made e-sign and global business smooth and simple. A business or organisation may choose between Standard, Advanced or Qualified esignatures, depending on their security needs, with all three legally effective, as a result.

To conclude, electronic signature laws vary across jurisdictions. Many countries have passed their own electronic transactions acts. For instance, many like Singapore, treat e-signatures and e-documents the same as paper records and ink signatures. 

As below, have a look at the individual electronic signature laws of the country you are looking to do business with for a clear look at the individual requirements. 

Read more from the E-Signature Series:

Hong Kong

By Will Elton

Founded in 2013, Zegal is the fastest growing LegalTech company operating across Asia Pacific and Europe. Today, business users and lawyers across the globe trust Zegal’s software to solve legal problems in an affordable and efficient way.

Zegal is led by a talented team of 60 employees and has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Zegal has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and was recently recognised in the South China Morning Post as an emerging LegalTech company in the artificial intelligence space.

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