Signed documents have always been able to legally defend its literature because of the nature of the document – it’s tangible. It therefore becomes necessary to reevaluate what it means for official materials to possess a signature when they’re on a screen. Digital signatures faxed over the Internet (FoIP) emulate written John Hancocks as best they can, but their legal connotations don’t translate as smoothly.
Fax over Internet Protocol (FoIP) interconnects fax machines over an online network, turning each fax into a messaging agent free from the traffic usually found over phone lines. Using FoIP, the digital data from the fax machine is separated into packets for transmission (as opposed to the traditional method of converting the fax data into analog to be sent over the PSTN), according to foip.org. The digital data requires less bandwidth than the analog data, so FoIP is more efficient than analog faxing.
With the fraud inhabiting cyber space, then, the legitimacy of any one fax is ten times as important. This is why the gap between “real” and “virtual” is still difficult to bridge, and why regulations on digital signatures are very subjective.
A digital signature, according to faxanswers.com, has in some way been confirmed of its authority over the terms of its document – distinct from an electronic signature, a more common accessory that doesn’t guarantee the same power.
Emails, according to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), are a common template for digital signatures, and protect against equally typical deception through electronic messaging.
“You may have received emails that have a block of letters and numbers at the bottom of the message,” holds the source. Although it may look like useless text or some kind of error, this information is actually a digital signature – much like numbers and letters printed on paper currency to police counterfeiting practices.
For faxed documents, legislation does exist to designate a legally binding signature. Paid (News - Alert) online services, according to faxanswers, help users ensure their signatures hold legal weight through a particular set of guidelines. Rightsignature.com, for example, attaches a legal form to an online document on which a user can enter information normally written long hand at the end of a hard contract.
GxPi recently collaborated with Algorithmic Research (ARX), and released new digital signature solutions under “CoSign” for the life science and healthcare industries, in need of digital signatures that need to interact and comply with firms operating under different standards.
“Incorporating CoSign digital signatures enables workflows to remain paper-free throughout while maintaining security and compliance in ‘on-premise’ or hosted environments,” said Keith Williams, CEO of GxPi.
FoIP provides an efficient medium through which to communicate documents, but requires users increase their knowledge of what their personal information represents on each document. Digital signatures may also not process internationally, according to faxanswers. When in doubt, look up your respective requirements.
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli