We will introduce the evolution of signature, and categorize the different ways to sign into 3 generations that have existed throughout the course of time, namely the 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 generations of document signing, and an even more advanced, future 3.5 generation.
First things first. What is a signature?
Let's get the definition out of the way.
A signature is the action of a person leaving a permanent imprint on a document, according to Stephen Mason, author of Electronic Signatures Observing Law. It shows the person's intention to be bound by the contents of the document.
A signature is important because it is a type of guarantee. It guarantees a person's consent, showing that something has been agreed by that person.
are 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 generations of document signing?
As technology evolves, so have signatures.
During the mid-1800s, people sent traditional, handwritten signatures by telegraph. Over a hundred years later, we sent them by fax. More recently, electronic signatures have become common, and we can seal a legally binding, electronic document anytime, anywhere.
In this post, we will go through 3 phases of document signing for you to grasp what it has been like.
The 1.0 Document Signing Generation: The Wet, Handwritten Signatures
We have evolved quite a bit from the use of pictures and symbols in 3000 BC to the rise of wax seal in the 13th century and the birth of modern signature in the 17th century.
The modern signature is closest to what we are used to today, where people would meet in person to physically sign on a document.
Such a modern signature is what we call a wet, handwritten signature.
By the mid-19th century, as electricity and telecommunication became widely accessible, modern handwritten signatures evolved into telegraph signatures. And it wasn't until over a hundred years later, fax machines became popular for sending a signed contract.
More recently, it has become quite the standard for these handwritten signatures to be scanned and emailed.
The way of signing with pen and ink and sending through telegraph, fax or email is the 1.0-generation of document signing.
The 2.0 Document Signing Generation: The Dry, Electronic Signatures
Like handwritten signatures, electronic signatures are legal and enforceable, as long as they comply with regulations such as EU’s eIDAS and ESIGN Act in the U.S.
In 1867, the U.S. courts first dealt with electronic signatures and recognized signatures transmitted via telegraph. Then, in 2000, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) — a U.S. federal law — was enacted, deeming electronic signatures legal and binding.
Since then, many e-signature solutions such as DocuSign, HelloSign and Adobe Sign have emerged.
Compared to traditional, written signatures, electronic signatures are traceable, and cost-saving. Each signed e-document has an audit trail to track the steps of signing process, and reduces significant amount of time on paperwork, and meetings.
The 3.0 Document Signing Generation: SelfieSign, Electronic Signatures with Video Record
In the previous 2.0 generation, we are able to sign our names online and the benefits of doing so include efficiency, and traceability.
So what makes a 3.0-generation signature?
We believe it is one that offers what every 2.0-generation e-signature solution offers, but simultaneously, it adds an extra layer of security.
SelfieSign is a good example as it video records the entire signing process.
For instance, Annie sends an agreement for Gilbert to sign; He signs it but later denies it. In this case, the video record serves as evidence that is admissible in court.
In the 3.0-generation of document signing, the signatures signed on each document are more than legally binding. They are non-repudiable, and court-admissible evidence against possible disputes.
There’s also 3.5 generation, a future, advanced 3.0- generation document signing.
Simply put, a 3.5-generation of document signing is SelfieSign plus facial recognition.
Facial recognition is a technology that identifies or verifies a person through image or video. With this technology, we can take authentication to the next level.
SelfieSign plans to embed facial recognition to quickly identity the signer.
The first time a person signs, the system will capture his or her face, associate it with an identity, and record it so later, only when the signer’s face matches an already registered identity, will he or she be granted access to sign.
In other words, SelfieSign ensures the person signed is indeed, truly the person intended to sign the document every time. Any doubt the sender may have about the identity of the signers, will be completely removed.
A 3.5-generation of document signing offers more than secure, smooth signing workflow. It is like providing customers with a complete, well-thought after-sales service after buying a product or subscribing a service.
Here are the takeaways.
Over the years, we have seen signatures evolve from signing on the dotted line, to simply signing on your PC or smartphone.
In this post, we have broken down the timeline into 3 and a 3.5 generation:
1.0 Generation. Handwritten signature. In other words, writing your name on papers.
2.0 Generation. Electronic signature. For example, a name entered on a PDF document.
3.0 Generation. Electronic signature with video record. SelfieSign video records the process as you sign.
3.5 Generation. Electronic signature with video record and facial recognition. SelfieSign matches your face to existing identity for faster, more secure agreement completion.
Here is a table for you to get a glance of each generation:
A Comparison Table
●●● Excellent ●●● Average ●●● Poor
And a couple terms explained to help you understand the table:
Non-repudiation: The ability to ensure that someone cannot deny sending a document or the authenticity of their signature on a document.
Signer Authentication: The process of verifying the person is the actual owner of the info provided (“are you really…you?”). Examples include OTP and facial recognition.
Signer Verification: The process of verifying the info provided is valid (“are you who you say you are?”). Examples include comparing user-submitted data to third- party database and examining an identity document.
Document Integrity: Having integrity means the document is both intact and tamper evident.
💡 For a reliable, evidence-backed document signing solution, try SelfieSign free today.