The importance of electronic time stamping

What does the term ‘time stamping’ bring to mind? For many, it’s likely a small machine that physically stamps a document or a ticket with a particular date and time, validating the paper document for a set period or indicating the finalized version.

But time stamping is in fact very different today. Like many functions and processes in a business context, it has also transformed to be more efficient in the digital environment. However, it still serves a very similar purpose.

What is electronic time stamping?

The EU’s CEF eSignature Knowledge Base defines electronic time stamping as:

An electronic time stamp is data in electronic form which binds other data in electronic form to a particular time establishing evidence that the latter data existed at that time.

Sounds quite simple and straightforward. Essentially, time stamping proves when a document was signed. It provides a level of validation, especially if there is a time limit on a required signature - time stamping can show that the document was signed on a particular date and time.

Time stamping is important from a legal perspective as it deals with the security and proof of when a document was signed. It’s critical for accurate record-keeping procedures.

Why use electronic time stamping?

Beyond the basic necessity of having a digital option when it comes to handling and stamping documents, electronic time stamping offers a number of other advantages for businesses implementing these tools.

  • Faster, more secure procedures for signature collection.

With clear regulations and guidelines surrounding electronic signatures (including the various types of documents that require different levels of identity verification), electronic time stamping adds to the increased security and authentication of electronic signatures.

  • Reduced paperwork involved in printed documents.

With global paper consumption at an all time high and offices making up a large part of those numbers. Reducing the need for paper documents by using online document management tools and electronic signatures is easy with the right tools.

  • Combining time stamping with an electronic seal.

Electronic time stamping most often is combined with an electronic seal. This means that once the document has been stamped, the data is then sealed so that it cannot be altered after the signature has been added, ensuring added levels of security.

Electronic time stamping is an important element of securing legal signatures on electronic documents and also ensuring the integrity and authenticity of the final, signed document. Because it relates to legally binding measures, it falls under the EU regulation of eIDAS (electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services).

eIDAS and electronic time stamping

eIDAS sets out different requirements for what kind of time stamping is necessary for certain types of documents, mainly the levels of verification needed for the documents to be considered valid in different legal/governmental circumstances.

There are three types of electronic signatures, Standard Electronic Signatures, Advanced Electronic Signatures, and Qualified Electronic Signatures. Each requires different levels of identity verification in order to apply the signature and the time stamping.

Using electronic time stamping

While it might sound complicated for businesses with legal signature and document requirements to implement the right solution for ensuring documents are handled efficiently and legally, there are a few good options available that help to streamline this process.

Software is available that helps facilitate the conversion of PDFs to digital forms, as well as give you the tools to easily build online forms with the required fields. The documents can then be signed with the necessary level of signature as set by the business, and signed documents are time-stamped and sealed.

Straightforward API documentation then makes it easy to integrate the software with existing data management systems, making the new tools work seamlessly with current systems while providing new levels of security and verification.