EC wants to tighten up electronic signatures - Wikimedia

The European Commission has launched a public consultation into electronic signatures.  

It wants to ensure that they are legal and easy to use as well as making sure the public know exactly what they are.

Currently, difficulties in verifying people's identities and signatures are a significant factor holding back the development of the EU's online economy, says the Commission.

Electronic identification (eID), or authentication and signatures are used in the private and public sector for online transactions. They can often be spotted on forms, which need to be rushed through such as contracts in the legal section, or financial forms for online credit agreements. They require people to type their names at the end of an electronic contract, but this is just as binding as a written signature.
 
The consultation has come about as the EC looks to ramp up the popularity of the signatures in markets. However it wants to make sure there is a "one size fits all" method, which all businesses must follow.

The questionnaire, which is targeted at those in the civil service, industry, business sector, academia and public administrations, also comes as the department looks to boost e-business and e-commerce across the continent.

Neelie Kroes, VP, digital agenda, at the EC, said: "I welcome everybody's views on how we can best verify people's identities and signatures when we buy, sell or undertake administrative procedures online that need to be highly secure. I want to help all Europeans get online without feeling that they will fall victim to data frauds or scams."

Feedback from the consultation - which runs until 15 April - will contribute to a review of the existing eSignature Directive and the preparation of a planned initiative on mutual recognition of electronic identification and authentication.