Digital Signatures

In recent years, the question of the validity of digital signatures has come before various courts and legislatures. Since so many types of legal transactions are legally required to be authenticated with a person’s signature, the issue of how to approve agreements online presented a new problem. Fortunately, strong, clear laws have emerged in the last few years, and digital signatures are now essentially legally equivalent to the real thing.

The first major breakthrough for digital signatures came in 1999, when President Clinton signed into law the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act. Simply put, the Act declared that at the Federal level, no electronic signature could be refused solely for the reason of being electronic. State legislatures quickly followed suit with various laws to similar effect.

Consumers’ levels of comfort with digital transactions, however, still vary a bit. While more technologically savvy consumers are as comfortable purchasing items on eBay or Amazon as at a local store, others still have concerns. Some worry about record-keeping or the confidentiality of their personal information, while others are intimidated by lengthy “click-wrap” agreements that are included with software programs and websites.