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ECT News Community   »   E-Commerce Times Talkback   »   Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: ECT News 2001-06-04 15:10:14
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It has been almost a year since former President Bill Clinton signed into law the
Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (E-SIGN) Act. Clearly, things have
become more complicated since then, because we hear very little about digital signatures
these days.

Was it an idea that seemed viable in the planning stage, but more complex in execution?
Was it simply a Clinton-era stage show designed to show the administration's
forward-thinking approach to e-commerce? Is it an idea that might still work if the kinks
are ironed out?

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: Rene Salazar 2001-12-19 10:00:52 In reply to: ECT News
I agree with you whole heartly! I represent a company that does digital signatures and uses certificates from Versign and Entrust.

I placed a paperless office system worth over $1.4M in 1989. There was over 200 people tied into the system. At that time, that was a lot of money. In 1993, the system was trashed because no one knew how to use the system and trusted it. They relied on their own paper on their desk/s.

Now in 2001, we seem to be going through this again. No one wants to change. The problem is, with that Sept 11 tragedy, many businesses/organizations are having many problems. The employees NOW have to change. If they resist, they will be left out. Possibly even without a job. I know what I am stating is harsh but it is a reality! We all need to really consider that change is now required and manditory. There are many advantages to using Digital Signatures. The problem is, no one knows what it is, how to use it, and what are the advatanges/disadvantages of using it.

We are staying with our focus and still applying Digital Signatures. I just wish there was something we can do to move this very valuable commodity along. I agree that the public needs a better understanding of what it is.

Keep me aware of any changes you see in the market/public.

Rene Salazar

PS- If you send me an email where I can send you a brief about Digital Signatures for our customers(not a sales brief), I would be happy to send it to you.

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: Stephen Wilson 2001-06-24 21:19:02 In reply to: ECT News
>we hear very little about digital signatures these days.

What does he make of Identrus? Or of large scale B2G PKI like the Australian Tax Office: 70,000 small businesses digitally sign monthly tax returns.

>Perhaps if the process of using digital signatures were easier ...

It's as easy as using your Amex Blue Card.

> if your bank does not employ the same digital signature technology as your mortgage company, and your online brokerage uses something different ...

All this is entirely hypothetical.
- Few institutions have invested in PKI to the extent suggested.
- The old fashioned notion that we would wander around cyberspace with a personal digital certificate, using it for all e-business, was always a fantasy and should never have been expected to eventuate.

Instead, digital certificates are being embedded in specific applications. This neutralises the interoperability and usability fears.

The killer apps for PKI are very specific -- highly structured, highly automated transactions carrying high risk or high value (e.g. e-health, government reporting, equities trading, B2B financial trades etc). PKI is not good for one-off transactions, regardless of value or risk.

Finally, there is no real prospect of "losing the last bastion of personal security -- the handwritten signature". There is no one-size-fits-all digital signature solution, and the handwritten signature will remain de rigueur for a great many applications.

Stephen Wilson
Director Policy & Strategy, beTRUSTed

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: JayK 2001-06-13 15:52:50 In reply to: ECT News
An inherent flaw in this article is that the terms e-signature and digital signature are used interchangeably. A digital signature, however, is merely a form of electronic signture using an encryption method for added security. What E-Sign does is far more than enable digital signatures to be valid for binding contracts. The language of E-Sign itself allows for an act as simple as a mouse click on an "I Agree" button to count as a legally valid signature. Sure digital signature technology is expensive and slow, but the E-Sign Act specifically disallows mandating the use of such technology in order to validate a contract. Instead, virtually any conduct that shows a willingness to be bound will do.

That said, I agree with the article's recitation of the various hoops that need to be jumped through in order for an e-business to rely on an e-signature. Congress certainly placed a rather lengthy framework in the legislation that e-business needs to be aware of. Overall, E-Sign can open a lot of doors. Hopefully we'll see them swinging open soon.

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: hj dehne 2001-06-06 00:34:55 In reply to: ECT News
The digital signatures must be unequivocably tied to a person at all times and under any conditions. Applying a digital signature via password is only as strong as the password.
An actual manual signature whose image appears on the page as we sign a document. Clearly this image can be pasted onto the document by anyone that has a copy of the
personal signature. There can be more to it, however. A biometric e-signature, one that measures the dynamics of the stroke pattern as it is created, is extremely personal and can not be forged. Biometric
e-signatures that appear on a document can also be identified by myself as appearing to be my signature. If a biometric token is embedded with the signature into the locked document and encrypted the
signature can be examined at any time POST signing for its validity. This method securely ties the signature to a person and it can not be stolen. We now have a signature that securely ties the signature to a person and we have PKI technology to transport the document over the internet to the recipient.
There are several companies in the business of biometric e-signatures. They are Communications Intelligence Corporation (CIC), PenOp and CADIX/Cybersign. CIC acquired PenOp which leaves
Cybersign as their competition. CIC has formed an alliance with Verisign for PKI support and can securely attach their biometric
e-signatures to Word or Acrobat documents. Since Acrobat PDF file format is very universal the capability
exists to sign almost any document. Indeed title companies, insurance companies, the Dale County, Florida
police department, and the Orange County Building Permit Department have adopted this technology.

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: TedDrew 2001-06-06 11:31:48 In reply to: hj dehne
I have to agree with Greenburg that it's possible it was all just posturing on the part of the Clinton administration. So far President Bush does not seem real inclined to promote technological advances that would jump start ecommerce.
Also, I have to wonder if your average Joe, like me, would feel good about digital signatures. I still like the feeling of a contract in my hand. If I buy a house or a car I think I want to meet face to face with the seller and have us all sign our names and shake hands.
I think it's possible e-signatures haven't advanced any more than they have because we just don't really feel a big need for them.

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: hj dehne 2001-06-06 19:53:05 In reply to: TedDrew
E-signatures do not exclude handshakes when buying a house or a car. This is all poorly
understood. E-signatures benefit the routing, speed and storing of documents in electronic form.
This is where a large part of the savings are realized. Contractual information is also much more
legible when routed via e-mail than routing offers and counteroffer for a house via fax. After an
offer has been faxed three or four times back and forth it is almost not legible. iTV aired an
infomercial on May 26, 2001 about e-signatures. A mortgage company was shown where
buyers of a house signed on a touch pad in the office of the title company and the handshake

What is mostly assumed is that products will be purchased unseen. That is not the way this
technology is going to be used routinely. For small items that may be the case, but we do
that already via charge cards and orders over the telephone even without a signature.

E-signatures are coming in a big way, but perhaps not quite the way people thought of them.

There are technologies available today that can accomplish this securely. Ultimately, the comfort
level of the individuals is going to determine the outcome. I can say this: I have opened brokerage
accounts and filed tax returns, both very important things to do, and I never shook anybody's hand
upon completion. I had to send the signature page by snail mail.

Re: E-Signatures: Unsigned, Unsealed, Undelivered
Posted by: John 2001-06-05 14:00:26 In reply to: ECT News
I think a lot of the points brought up in this article are valid indeed. Perhaps another way of thinking about digital signatures is to view them as a "technology" (i.e., a physical "thing" or apparatus that does something) that goes through a series of three phases (Elite, Popular, Specialized). Though encryption/decryption technology has been around quite a while, it is, to the vast majority of the population, "new" (i.e., there are a limited or elite number of users). Eventually, however, digital signature technology will (like all forms of technology) move into a Popular phase and (as new forms of technology come onto the scene and reposition it) a Specialized phase. The bottom line: Digital signature technology is still in its "incunabula" or cradle period--eventually it won't be.
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