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How UK’s DIATF can boost e-signatures’ evidentiary value

OIX report launched
How UK’s DIATF can boost e-signatures’ evidentiary value

A recently released report by Nick Mothershaw, chief identity strategist of Open Identity Exchange (OIX) and a member of the OIX/TISA eSignatures working group, emphasizes the potential to strengthen the evidentiary value of simple and advanced e-signatures by leveraging the UK’s Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework (DIATF). The document aims to draw attention to the advantages of using DIATF-certified digital IDs to associate a “known user” with an electronic signature, thereby bolstering its legal weight. The paper outlines the benefits and mechanics of this approach, along with possible use cases.

Simple Electronic Signatures (SES) offered through various signing platforms like Adobe Sign and DocuSign enable companies or individuals to send important documents to recipients worldwide using trusted electronic signature software. The process is straightforward — once received, the recipient can input their signature, accept the terms, and return the document in less than a minute.

A crucial feature of these platforms is their ability to store a cryptographically signed electronic record of the signing event for each party involved. This system creates a record of events, and the information contained within these records can be used as evidence in court, demonstrating that a party agreed to the contents of the documents.

However, while these platforms can verify that the signer controls the document’s email and/or phone number, they cannot definitively prove that the person signing is the intended signatory.

The OIX report suggests that adding a reusable UK DIATF-proofed ID, which verifies users according to a recognized government-backed standard, to the e-signature process can significantly enhance the certainty that the appropriate parties are signing legal documents. By doing so, these signatures will carry more weight in court, especially if challenged at a later stage.

One benefit of this combined SES and DIATF-ID signature is that it does not involve expensive signing equipment associated with a higher-weight Qualified Electronic Signature (QES).

Using a digital ID that the user already possesses will mean they will merely use their digital ID authenticators to prove it is them, which may be as simple as a phone-based face ID on a known device. This is simpler, quicker and less error-prone than sending a one-time code that the user must enter back into the system.

Adding UK’s DIATF-verified reusable ID into the SES process increases evidentiary weight for less cost than using a qualified certificate and with less user inconvenience.

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