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The "Guidelines" describe a system for ensuring the identity of the holder of a private key, for making digital signatures as usable in commerce and in legal proceedings as a written signature on paper, and for ascribing appropriate responsibility to those engaged in electronic commerce should one of the parties involved deny liability under the transaction. Those engaging in electronic commerce will want to know that the message and the electronic "signature" attached to the message can both be verified and can be used in court to bind the "signer" to the deal. Looking ahead, the American Bar Association Section of Science and Technology has produced the first legal overview of the use of cryptology, electronic signatures, and entity authentication over an open network like the Internet. The resulting document is called the Digital Signature Guidelines, now available online for FREE from the ABA.
There are over 65 "digital signature" initiatives underway world-wide. (The term digital signature is used generically here to mean electronic authentication of documents.) Despite the amount of work being done to analyze the legal and policy implications of digital signatures, governments have moved forward to produce legislative mandates that often are inconsistent or lack interoperability. ILPF has established a digital signature working group to address these inconsistencies because Internet commerce depends upon a robust digital signature environment that does not preclude innovation in technology or favor any one product or cryptographic algorithm over another.
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