A digital or electronic signature provides security and integrity
A digital signature or electronic signature is a digital version of a handwritten or wet signature and consists of digital data that are attached to a digital document. A digital signature provides certainty about the will and the identity of the signatories and certainty that the signed document will not be changed.
Three types of digital signatures
The Dutch law follows the European law (eIDAS) and knows 3 types of digital signatures:
- The ordinary digital signature
- The advanced digital signature
- The qualified digital signature
We briefly explain each type of digital signature below:
Ordinary electronic signature
An ordinary (non-qualified) electronic signature is a signature linked to other digital data, for example, a document or an e-mail. This ordinary digital signature is used to indicate the identity of the signer. However, this form of digital signature has little to no legal value because the true identity of the signer cannot be determined. Moreover, this form of digital signature is easily forged and it is possible to make subsequent changes to the content of the associated document. An ordinary digital signature is, for example, a scanned handwritten signature or a signature created with the mouse (a so-called mouse signature).
Advanced electronic signature
The advanced electronic signature provides, under certain conditions, full legal validity for documents to be signed. A major advantage of the advanced electronic signature over the qualified electronic signature is that it can be applied in a low-threshold manner to most documents to be signed, without compromising legal validity. Hereby, the sender of the document can not only sign digitally himself, but he can also have his clients sign digitally within the same system in a relatively simple manner, so that the signing process can be handled digitally in its entirety. More about the advanced electronic signature.
Qualified electronic signature
The qualified digital or electronic signature is equivalent to the handwritten or wet signature. It therefore has the same legal value. The qualified electronic signature is created with a qualified personal PKI certificate. This digital signature is required for documents with major legal consequences, such as notarial deeds, mortgage deeds, insurance policies and in some cases for employment contracts. More about the qualified electronic signature.
Reliability of electronic signature
The legal validity says a lot about the reliability of electronic signatures. The advanced electronic signature and the qualified electronic signature can be considered as reliable. With both types of digital signatures you can assume that the signer is the one who should sign (identity). And that the signed documents after signing can no longer be changed (integrity). For the ordinary digital signature (for example, a mouse signature or a scanned image), this unfortunately does not apply. It can therefore not be considered reliable.
European use of digital signature
Since 23 July 2014, the European Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 has existed which relates to the use of digital signatures. This regulation ensures that in all EU countries the same legislation applies to electronic signatures and that all EU countries recognise each other's electronic signatures. It is each EU country is allowed its own additional legislation to apply. In the Netherlands it is the law on electronic signatures. Compare it with the international use of passports. Each country issues its own passport. And according to its own legislation. These passports are different for each country, but are accepted by each country because they comply with international agreements.