Digital signature, as reliable as an autograph one
El Cronista | 21/05/2019
Not so long ago, setting one’s hand was an irreplaceable symbol of reliability and commitment, whether to enter into an agreement, to issue a check, or to attest the individual’s identity. Like many other expressions in the analogous universe, this modality is undergoing certain swift changes. Yet, they are now starred by both the National State and companies, and it will not take long to see it come true in daily life.
Using an asymmetric cryptographic mechanism, the so-called digital signature offers the same assurance of any holographic signature, and even more than that. Indeed, it not only allows identifying the author of any message or document in a more accurate way, but it also confirms the document has not been altered at all after being signed, thus ensuring it will not be repudiated afterwards.
To make this happen, the only thing needed is to have two keys associated with each other: A private key protected by a password only known by the signature’s owner, and a public one, which is included in a digital certificate, which helps its recipient verify the author’s signature is authentic. Such reassurance gives the document the same legal effectiveness of any hand-signed document.
Even though the act setting forth its legal regime was enacted by the National Congress in November 2001, the process for the disclosure of such instrument was slow and progressive. It gained impetus by the end of 2014. It did so, following administrative decision 927 of the Cabinet of Ministers (Jefatura de Gabinete de Ministros, JGM), which clarified and simplified signature infrastructure design across the country, consolidated the criteria for the issuance of certificates, reformulated the licensing processes, and introduced new associated services. It also included time seals because they help the recipient confirm both the date and the time assigned to any document.
The process was accelerated as from 2016, after the adoption of resolution N.º 399/E of the former Ministry of Modernization, which replaced said administrative decision. Other State agencies have adhered to this resolution and have adopted systems that contemplate the use of digital signature. These systems include electronic docket filings and electronic document management, and more specifically, the Electronic Document Management System module known as Trámites a Distancia or TAD (Remote Errands System). At the same time, following the demands or upon the request of the public sector, a growing number of individuals and companies are adopting and using such modality.
Such infrastructure is made by the Central Certifying Authority of the Republic of Argentina and the Licensing Agency. The latter comprises the Cabinet of Ministers’ Secretariat of Modernization, and the Administrative Modernization Secretariat dependent from the Secretariat mentioned above, under the direction of Cabinet of Ministers. Their responsibility is to grant licenses to Licensed Certifiers and to audit their operations, hand in hand with the Sindicatura General de la Nación or SIGEN (the General Accounting Office).
At present, certain public agencies and companies serve as Licensed Certifiers. They do so after assuring they rely on the suitable human resources, technological and physical infrastructure, and the security systems required to conduct digital signature operations.
Public Licensed Certifiers approve digital signature certificates for individuals, while private Licensed Certifiers approve certificates for both individuals and legal entities.
Lakaut’s figures, a company that has a license to operate since 2015 and has a leading position in the market, clearly reflect the spreading use of digital signature. For the period that goes from January to March this year for example, the number of documents electronically signed with certificates issued by the company recorded an 84.5% rise with respect to the figures recorded the previous quarter, which had reflected, in turn, a climb of 83.9%.
Its use is widespread in the national, provincial, and municipal public sector, mainly in connection with their intrinsic administrative actions and other proofs, errands, and formalities carried out by citizens and companies who need to complete administrative actions with PJN or Poder Judicial de la Nación (the Judiciary), AFIP (Internal Revenue Service), ANSeS (the National Social Security Administration), PAMI (the Social Welfare Pension Scheme), or the Motor Vehicle Register.
It is also required to operate using the Remote Formalities Platform known as Trámites a Distancia or TAD), to create a Simplified Corporation (Sociedad Anónima Simplificada, SAS) or to obtain an Electronic Certificate of Origin or eCO (Certificado de Origen Digital, COD).
Meanwhile, applications in the private sector seem to be virtually unlimited. In the City of Buenos Aires, companies are now submitting all the labor documents required by the authorities using digital signature. Its use has also extended to multiple transactions, and also to the signature of agreements.
It also goes along with growth in electronic trade, and it is also likely to be a vital requirement when electronic medical records are adopted or when physicians need to make prescriptions or request certain tests or exams to be made.
In a world in constant change, reliability still remains as a valuable asset.