Simple electronic signature (ES)

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  • Post last modified:10. June 2024
Simple electronic signature

Meaning & definition of the simple signature

The legal basis for electronic signatures is the eIDAS Regulation.
This names three types of electronic signature, the electronic signature, often referred to as the simple electronic signature, the advanced electronic signature and the qualified electronic signature.

Table of contents

The term “electronic signature” is defined in the EU Regulation as follows:

“‘Electronic signature’ means data in electronic form that is attached to (or logically associated with) other electronic data and used by the signatory to sign.”

In contrast to the advanced and qualified signature, there are no further requirements for the simple electronic signature (ES). The ES does not need to carry a means of identification or ensure document integrity.

Advantages and disadvantages of the simple electronic signature

This signature type can be done very quickly and easily. As the name suggests, it is the simplest form of electronic signature. However, it is hardly provable, as the signature cannot be clearly assigned to a person. The document is usually not protected after the signature and can therefore still be changed.

Is the simple electronic signature legally valid

The question then arises as to whether a simple electronic signature is legally valid at all if the identity cannot be assigned and the integrity is not guaranteed.
The simple electronic signature is legally valid, unless there is a written form requirement by law. This means that documents that do not require a written form can also be signed with an ES. These are, for example, general terms and conditions, client information, documentation and internal protocols.
The written form is only mandatory for a few documents, such as fixed-term employment contracts and guarantees. Most documents can be signed with a simple signature.
Nevertheless, we recommend using an advanced electronic signature solution, especially for very important documents, as this is easier to prove.

Examples of simple electronic signatures

Often, signatures are embedded as images in application documents and the like. It is a simple method when no other signature solution is available. For this purpose, the signature is made on paper and scanned in afterwards. In Word and other text programmes, this can easily be added to the document. This is a simple electronic signature.
A name under an email, an email signature, is also an ES.
Another thing that doesn’t look like a signature at all, but is also a simple signature is a “Buy” button in an online shop or an “I agree” checkbox.
Checkbox - I accept the terms and conditions

Alternatives to the simple electronic signature

The inSign electronic signature solution Made & Hosted in Germany supports advanced and qualified electronic signatures according to eIDAS. The simple electronic signature is not offered due to its very low provability.
For most documents, the advanced electronic signature is the best choice and a good alternative to the simple signature.
The advanced electronic signature (AES) with inSign can be provided either by entering a name on the keyboard or by handwritten signature on a touch device.

Name input via keyboard

Entering a name on the keyboard is almost as simple as a simple electronic signature. The signatory receives an email with a link to the document and signs by entering their name on the keyboard. A sealed PDF hash is created in the background. This protects the document from changes. In addition, further data is recorded as evidence and filed in the audit report. These are, for example, email address and mobile phone number. Should a dispute arise, the audit report can help clarify the situation.

Handwritten signature

inSign provides another advanced signature method. This is a handwritten signature on a touch device. In addition to the audit report, proof of identity is provided via encrypted biometric data. Biometric data includes writing speed, writing direction, writing pressure and writing pauses. These are embedded in the document in encrypted form next to the signature image.

FAQ & summary

According to the eIDAS Regulation, an electronic signature (or also called a simple signature) is data in electronic form that is attached or logically linked to other electronic data and used by the signatory to sign.
You can create a simple electronic signature, for example, by scanning your signature on paper and embedding it in the document.
The simple electronic signature is sufficient for documents that do not require written form by law.
The simple electronic signature is difficult to prove because there is no further data on the identity of the signatory.
The better alternative to the simple electronic signature is the advanced electronic signature (AES). It is legally secure and provable.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Just write us a message.
About the author
Christina Detling – Online Marketing Manager
Christina has been working at inSign for over four years and is happy to pass on her knowledge of electronic signatures and digitisation.