Is an electronic signature legal?

Region: Ontario Answer # 360

In Canada, all federal and provincial governments have enacted e-commerce laws that give recognition to the legal effect of most types of authenticated electronic signatures.

Not all documents, however, may qualify for the use of electronic signatures, including Wills, negotiable instruments and land transfers. Also, simply attaching or embedding an image of a signature into a document may not provide sufficient proof of its legitimacy, since anyone could use it.

Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) defines an electronic signature as “a signature that consists of one or more letters, characters, numbers or other symbols in digital form incorporated in, attached to or associated with an electronic document.”

Under the Act, a secure electronic signature must be unique to the person making the signature; the technology or process used to make the signature must be under the sole control of the person making the signature; that specific technology or process must have the capability to be used to identify the person; and the electronic signature can be linked with an electronic document in a way that will allow one to determine if the document has been changed since the signature was attached to it.

Typical electronic signatures use cryptographic, biometric or digitally capture technologies.

For help in determining if an electronic signature is legal, contact a computer or technology lawyer.


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