Creating a Digital Signature Online vs Electronic Signature?

What differentiates a digital signature and an e-signature?

Digital signatures can be used to sign agreements and contracts online, but what is the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature? In this article, we give an overview of the differences between an electronic signature and a digital signature and in what instances you might use each of them. You can also find out more about digital signature support with Docusign.

Electronic signatures are simple to create, and Docusign eSignature is an example of electronic signature software. You can use electronic signatures on many different types of contracts. Here are 10 documents you can sign online with an electronic signature. In contrast, a digital signature is one type of electronic signature, and it’s usually used in industries that are regulated or where additional verification of identity is required. Read on to discover more about digital signatures.

Digital Signature Online

So, what is a digital signature, and how do you use one online? Digital signatures are based on a technology standard called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). PKI is used to create a tamper-evident “digital certificate” that is unique - it associates each signer with a document. The use of a digital signature online proves that the signers have confirmed their identities. Digital signatures comply with strict regulations, including the European eIDAS regulation of 2014 and the UK’s Electronic and Trust Services Regulation for Electronic Transactions. 

Two digital signature levels are accepted online in the UK that provide stronger signer authentication or ID verification than a simple electronic signature (SES).

  • Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) - If you create a digital signature online using AES, it will include additional authentication steps. Signers are asked to produce a document to confirm their identity along with a unique access code following the signing. The identification required may be a passport or driving Licence, for example. A digital certificate is generated and attached as part of this transaction and should be linked to detect any subsequent changes. This way of signing is usually used when the transaction taking place is of a high value. Advanced Electronic Signatures are often required for financial services transactions or those involving legal or government documents. Advanced Electronic Signatures are often required by HR when onboarding new employees too. 
  • Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES): A QES requires that a digital certificate is issued by a QTSP - a qualified trust service provider via a Qualified Signature Creation Device. This requires that the person signing the document has face-to-face identity verification from a QTSP. It’s used when even more advanced security measures are needed than that offered by AES. There are a few instances where a QES is required by national law for certain agreements. It’s the digital equivalent of a handwritten signature. TeleDoctor24 have been digitising the healthcare system by legally issuing prescriptions through their user-friendly app. They can issue a qualified electronic signature from a video call on electronic prescriptions and sick leave forms. The QES is legally valid and corresponds to a handwritten signature in Germany and throughout Europe. 

Here’s more information on how digital signatures work and more about the types of digital signature available.

Docusign and Digital Signatures Online

Docusign is on the EU Trust List, which means that they are authorised to issue qualified electronic signatures (QES) across the EU, which are also accepted in the UK. Docusign can also issue Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) and provides flexible options to verify the identity of signers, including using Docusign ID Verification. Find out more about Digital ID Verification in the UK with Docusign. Around the world, there are international standards that specify requirements for digital signatures and the methods used to authenticate a signer. Discover more about digital signature compliance around the world.