eSignatures transpose the rich semantics of handwritten signatures into the electronic world, . Because a signature is a symbolic representation of an individual, the keystone of the eSignature Directive is a strong intertwining between electronic signatures, authentication and identification. eSignature is defined as data in electronic form logically associated with other electronic data, which in turn serves as a method of authentication. An ‘advanced’ signature is an eSignature capable of identifying the signatory. The intertwining is reinforced by the reliance of eSignature and eIdentification on the same technology.
New rules are proposed to enable cross-border and secure electronic transactions in Europe. The Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market was adopted by the Commission in June 2012. The 3 April 2014 the European Parliament adopted its position at first reading, and communicated it to the Council for approval and adoption by the co-legislators.
Electronic identification (eID) and electronic trust services (eTS - namely electronic signatures, electronic seals, time stamp, electronic delivery service and website authentication) are inseparable by essence when analysing the requirements needed to ensure legal certainty, trust and security in electronic transactions.
In this regard, the draft regulation proposes to:
- ensure that people and businesses can use their own national electronic identification schemes (eIDs) to access public services in other EU countries where eIDs are available.
- create an European internal market for eTS by ensuring that they will work across borders and have the same legal status as traditional paper based processes. Only by providing certainty on the legal validity of all these services, businesses and citizens will use the digital interactions as their natural way of interaction.
eID and eTS, both elements of the Regulation, will create a predictable regulatory environment to enable secure and seamless electronic interactions between businesses, citizens and public authorities. This will increase the effectiveness of public and private online services, eBusiness and electronic commerce in the EU.
An Action Plan on eSignatures and eIdentification has been adopted in 2008, with the aim to remove interoperability barriers.