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Electronic signature: a suitable solution for the digital transformation of businesses

    As part of the dematerialization of company data, electronic signatures are quickly becoming more and more popular. Digitization is today a central issue which can prove decisive in internal data processing. The new standards governed by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) reinforce this need for companies to move towards solutions that guarantee respect for the authenticity of documents and security. The latter are, in fact, very numerous. Among them, the dematerialized signature is rapidly gaining credibility and popularity. A significant increase in the use of electronic signatures is occurring within organizations.

    Accelerated dematerialization in the context of Covid-19

    In the health context linked to Covid-19, the dematerialization of data is a real asset. It allows a limitation of face-to-face contacts while making data more accessible to authorized people. By optimizing exchanges, it saves time and security. The popularization of e-signature thanks to the increase in teleworking has transformed uses: solutions that integrate compliance with health standards are therefore favored for companies. The need to optimize the digital strategy is also at the origin of this change. Can we say that we have gone from an interesting solution to a necessity? The question does not yet seem justified, however, it is becoming more and more relevant, even beyond the health situation.

    Electronically sign your documents: rules for each step

    An electronic signature must follow regulations to be compliant. To do this, it must respect three main principles: authenticity (document that cannot be modified), visibility (only the people concerned by the document must be able to consult it) and identification (each signatory must be known). An e-signature alone is not binding on the law, any signature must be rigorously accompanied and associated with an electronic certificate (valid for 2 to 3 years maximum). Any verification after this deadline will not be admissible. The electronic signature concerns at least two parties around an accessible digital medium. We then proceed as follows: certification of identity, transmission of the digital document and validation of the content. The validation report, integrated into the archive seal, serves as proof of the validity of the signature during the archiving process of the document concerned.

    The eIDAS (Electronic Identification And Trust Services) regulation integrates two new services which concern the validation and preservation of electronic signatures. It distinguishes four types of electronic signature which vary mainly depending on the level of security. Internationally, regarding regulations in the case of electronically signed documents, each state has its own conventions (apart from the EU which applies the eIDAS regulation between all member states). Hence the establishment of a common legal framework between parties for the probative value of the said document.

    What are the issues and objectives surrounding electronic signatures for businesses?

    According to a survey conducted by Archimag magazine in 2020 on a panel of 136 French organizations, “39% of them have already been using electronic signatures for one or more years”. Among these, “19% want to equip themselves with it this year and 24% are considering it for years to come.” Concerning this panel of companies cited, each notes several advantages regarding the use of electronic signature: “the shortened time to have several parties sign comes first (48%) compared to the opportunity to eliminate paper ( 43%), speed and legal certainty (38%), or even simplicity (23%).

    The challenges for the future around electronic signatures are high, under the right conditions of data processing and implementation of the compliance framework, the electronic signature, just like dematerialization in a more general way, will make it possible to guarantee the authenticity and integrity of the document in question. Indeed, a digital document that is less mobile than a handwritten document in space and time is and will be more easily transmitted and retrieved by a legal or natural person. Preserving the content of the document will be facilitated. Any document signed electronically within the framework of application is legally admissible: from an administrative and legal point of view, the document concerned has the same legal value as any other. Much like a standard signature, signing a document electronically marks the identity of a signer and also the validity of a document that would likely not be admissible without the signature. Any signature cannot be duplicated or modified once recognized and archived. Concerning the specific needs of companies, the Arcsys archiving solution includes a module, SignatureValidator, dedicated to the verification of electronic signatures provided by the paying service.

    Etienne VALADE

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