(Revised: 03/2021)


Permissible Types of E-Signatures

  • Name Typed or Stamped:  A person signing or stamping a form electronically does so by typing or stamping their name in the designated signature field with a statement confirming agreement.
  • Recorded Voice:  While a voice recording could be considered an electronic signature, simple voice recordings may not establish intent of agreement. Many voice systems include an additional step such as keypad verification to confirm agreement. To use a recorded voice as an e-Signature, it must:

    • Be associated with the speaker;
    • Be associated with a specific document or record;
    • Show evidence of the speaker’s intent to be bound to the terms and conditions in that specific document or record;
    • Be captured in electronic format.
  • Personal Identification Number (PIN) or Password:  When using a PIN or password for an e-Signature, a person accessing an application is requested to enter identifying information, which may include an identification number, the person’s name and a "shared secret" (called "shared" because it is known to both the user and the system), such as a PIN and/or password. The system checks that the PIN and/or password is indeed associated with the person accessing the system and "authenticates" the person. Sometimes the entry of some personal information (for example: name or date of birth) along with the PIN and password is also required.
  • Digitized Image of Handwritten Signature:  A digitized signature is a graphical image of a handwritten signature. Some applications require a person to create a handwritten signature using a special computer input device, such as a digital pen and pad. Digitized signatures are most often used in face-to-face consumer transactions using credit cards. Some applications can compare the digitized representation of the entered signature with a stored copy of the graphical image of the signature. A digitized signature may be another form of shared secret known both to the person and to the system. Forging a digitized signature can be more difficult than forging a paper signature because the technology that compares the submitted signature image with the known signature image is more accurate than the human eye.
  • Digital Signatures: The California Secretary of State has established regulations for Acceptable Technologies for Digital Signatures. See California Code of Regulations, Title 2, § 22003. There are two main types of digital signatures, one using Symmetric Cryptography and the other using Asymmetric Cryptography.
    • Symmetric Cryptography or Shared Private Key: In this e-Signature method, a person electronically signs using a single cryptographic key that is not publicly known, for authentication purposes. The same key is used to sign a document and verify the signer’s identity and is shared between the signer and the entity hosting the transaction requiring the signature.
    • Asymmetric Cryptography or Public/Private Key: To produce a digital signature, two mathematically linked keys are generated - a private signing key that is kept private, and a public validation key that is publicly available. The two keys are mathematically linked, but the private key cannot be deduced from the public key. The public key is often made part of a "digital certificate," which is a digitally signed electronic document binding the individual’s identity to a private key in an unalterable fashion. Digital signatures are often used within the context of a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) in which a trusted third party known as a Certification Authority binds individuals to private keys and issues and manages certificates.

Terms and Definitions Related to Electronic Signatures

  • Authentication: The process of securely verifying the identity of an individual prior to allowing access to an electronic service.
  • Automated Transaction: A transaction conducted or performed, in whole or in part, by electronic means or electronic records, in which the acts or records of one or both parties are not reviewed by an individual in the ordinary course in forming a contract, performing under an existing contract, or fulfilling an obligation required by the transaction.
  • Electronic: Relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, or similar capabilities.
  • Electronic Agent: A computer program or an electronic or other automated means used independently to initiate an action or respond to electronic records or performances in whole or in part, without review by an individual.
  • Electronic Record: A record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means.
  • Electronic Signature: An electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the electronic record. For purposes of this title, a “digital signature” as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 16.5 of the Government Code is a type of electronic signature.
  • Information: Data, text, images, sounds, codes, computer programs, software, databases, or the like.
  • Record: Information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form.
  • Security Procedure: A procedure employed for the purpose of verifying that an electronic signature, record, or performance is that of a specific person or for detecting changes or errors in the information in an electronic record. The term includes a procedure that requires the use of algorithms or other codes, identifying words or numbers, encryption, or callback or other acknowledgment procedures.
  • Transaction: An action or set of actions occurring between two or more persons relating to the conduct of business, commercial, or governmental affairs.
  • Wet or Original Signature: A signature that is created when a person physically writes a name in a stylized, cursive format (or even a simple “X”) on a piece of paper.

General Terms and Definitions

  • Forms – Any documents containing locked content or requests that are used repeatedly. Variable data or fill-in spaces may or may not be included.  It includes such items as form letters, tags, labels, continuous forms, tab cards and envelopes. Web-based forms, surveys and reports are included in this definition.
  • Business – A business is any partnership, corporation, organization, business trust, or any person or nongovernmental entity or representative thereof, which supplies the state with information by filling out a form.
  • Business-Use Forms/Reports – State forms and/or reports used to collect and/or solicit information, including signatures, from businesses.
  • Public-Use Forms – State forms used to obtain or solicit facts, opinions, or other information from the public or private citizens, etc.  State Standard (STD) Forms – State forms developed for use by all agencies to carry out common statewide administrative functions.
  • Agency / Departmental Forms – State forms created and used specifically by an agency to carry out the agency’s administrative functions. The term agency refers to appropriate departments, offices, boards, commissions, etc.
  • Forms Management Center (FMC) – Includes the Statewide Forms Manager (SFM), Forms Management Representative (FMR) and a technical support unit within the     Department of General Services responsible for the orderly design, implementation and maintenance of the statewide forms management program. 
  • Statewide Forms Management Program (SFMP) – A program built up of individuals statewide selected to carry out forms management responsibilities.
  • Statewide Forms Manager (SFM) – An individual responsible for the management functions required by the SFMP.
  • Forms Management Representative (FMR) – An individual appointed by the department’s director to implement the agency’s forms management program. See GovernmentCodeSection14772.
  •  Departmental Forms Coordinator (DFC) – An individual assigned by the office chief/ manager to serve as the liaison between the office/program and the FMR.
  •  See Government Code Sections 14770-14775.

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