An e-signature (electronic signature) is a digital version of a traditional pen and ink signature. In the United States, an e-signature provides the same legal commitment as a handwritten signature if it meets these four criteria:
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- Intent to sign - the signatory has intends to verify his or her identity.
- Consent to do business electronically - the signatory has agreed to do business electronically.
- Association of signature with the record - the system used to capture the e-signature can verify the process by which the signature was created.
- Record retention - the e-signature is stored for the required amount of time so it can be referenced by all interested parties.
The terms e-signature and digital signature are often confused and used incorrectly as synonyms by laymen. A digital signature is a type of e-signature that uses mathematics to validate the authenticity and integrity of a message, software or digital document.