Jaeheon Shim
Hi! I'm Jaeheon Shim, a computer programmer and technology enthusiast. Here on Learn The Technology, I write about technology and the effect it is having on our modern world. I write about a broad range of topics, ranging from 3D Printing to Cybersecurity.

Do Signatures Even Matter?

Signatures used to be one of the only ways to verify your identity. In the days without ID’s or other reliable ways of verifying whether somebody is who they say, people would use their signature to prove their authenticity. This was because signatures can be hard to fake – At least with the equipment available at that time – and signing a document is quick, easy, and painless. To approve a transfer or to withdraw money from your bank, you would talk to a teller, and then sign a piece of paper. Then, that signature would be compared to a signature card that was signed previously, and if the signatures matched up, the transaction would be approved.

But now, other technologies make it easier and more secure to approve something. Did you know that when you visited this website, you agreed to our terms of use and privacy policy? People these days can just click a checkbox and immediately agree to a set of terms. Also, humans have also gotten smarter as to invent social security numbers and drivers licenses. Now, when you register for a bank account, you can provide your social security number to an online form, instead of actually having to meet somebody and sign a paper in real life. You have to admit that this is way easier than your signature. So why do we still even bother to use signatures?

The answer is, old habits die hard. Signatures will soon die out and be replaced with better, more secure methods. Now that we have different methods of verification, such as fingerprint and facial recognition, signatures will soon become obsolete. This is just like teaching cursive in school. The main reason cursive was used was because, in the days without computers and printers, it would be faster to write in cursive than print because cursive requires lifting the pen less. Teachers who still use paper write in cursive and students complain that they cannot read the teachers’ handwriting. Since there is really no point in cursive, I think that teachers should give up teaching it and start teaching other, useful subjects. (Such as computer science or economics).

Let’s get back on the topic. As shown in the picture above, many credit and debit cards have a spot on the back where you are supposed to sign your legal signature. That way, in case there is a dispute, you can compare the signature on the card to the signature that was provided during the transaction. This is why you have to sign a receipt at restaurants or sign the digital screen at stores. But let’s be honest. The slips of paper with signatures on them will probably be thrown into a box and disregarded until it is time to throw them away. And digital signing devices are not as high quality as ink and paper. Also, most disputes in payment are usually solved without having to retrieve the signatures, so the signature is rarely used. We are also moving to the method of using chip and pin (chip and signature in some cases), so losing your card won’t be a big problem. The card would only be half of what you need to complete the transactions.

Also, did you know that when you sign a check, most of the time the signature is not even verified! Since the ACH (Automated Clearing House) process is done mostly by computers, you really only need somebody’s account and routing number to transfer their money. This is another system that needs to be changed. Now that bank transfers can be done online, the ACH system is no longer valid because it has no form of verifying who the person is.

According to the internet, another reason we use signatures to sign contracts is for a psychological reason. Apparently, signatures make it more likely for somebody to keep their agreement on a contract because signing something feels more authentic and makes you think that you are actually signing into something, which is not the case. Did you know that if you signed a paper with another person’s name, but with the intent to agree to that contract, the signature is valid? So even if you draw a smiley face on that loan contract, it is still legally binding. (Not recommended)

The reason that signatures were a safe way to conduct business and verify your identity up until now was that signatures are hard to forge, and there are severe consequences if you were caught forging one. They are no longer secure because modern technology makes it easy to forge somebody’s signature. So in conclusion: Do Signatures Even Matter? Since they are the standard right now, yes, signatures do matter. Until another method comes into play, your signatures still matter. Even though they might not be the most secure way, in some cases, they are the only way. But the only thing keeping signatures secure are the laws involved, so are signatures just a matter of trust?

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2 Responses

  1. KYU NAM SHIM says:

    Good article

  2. Like says:

    Like!! Thank you for publishing this awesome article.

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