Digital Signature Verification
Florida Requires Third-Party Digital Signature Verification
The State of Florida now requires some electronically submitted plans to be digitally signed using a third-party company that validates your digital signature. This includes documents sent to all Building, Planning and Zoning Departments.
As defined in Florida Statute Title XXXIX, Chapter 668, this rule applies to professional engineers, architects, landscape architects, interior designers and surveyors. All other design professionals can either obtain a Digital Signature from a third-party entity or create a signature through a software application such as Microsoft Word or Adobe.
What is a Digital Signature?
Digital signatures are likened to “electronic fingerprints,” in that they are unique to each sender and can verify authenticity of digital messages and documents. Using a Digital Signature indicates both that the contents were created by a known sender and that the message was not altered in transit.
The U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, signed in 2000, states that electronic signatures are legal in every state and U.S. territory where federal law applies. Where federal law does not apply, most U.S. states have adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act.
Digital vs Electronic Signatures
The term “Electronic Signature” has come to encompass a broad category of security measures, including Digital Signatures. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably by people outside the security business, but they have very specific meanings.
Both Digital Signatures and common “eSignatures” allow you to sign documents and authenticate the signer. However, digitally signing your design files also protects the contents from being altered. Some third-Party vendors offer both Digital and Electronic Signatures. To comply with the Florida law, all design professionals must use a Digital Signature, which utilize the more complex algorithms that meet requirement for validating document integrity.
- A digital signature uses algorithms to encrypt your document in a way that allows the recipient – in this case, the government agency – to verify the document was signed and sealed. They are also regulated through laws that differ from country to country.
- An electronic signature simply adds symbols or other data to display a signature. There is no verification or “public key” to prevent altering.
How Digital Signature Verification Works
The Florida law requires that applicants “locate a company who acts as a Certificate Authority that will issue a Digital Signature.” This simply means you must work through a certified third-party provider, some of which are listed below.
The digital signature industry has refined its practices over the past two decades to make the process as simple as downloading their program to your computer and signing in. By clicking “Sign,” you apply your unique code – called a “hash” – to the document. Each signature is specific to a particular document, and any change would result in the creation of a new hash.
Then, when the document is later opened in a program such as Adobe Reader or Microsoft Word, the program compares the hash to determine the documents status. A message alert will then announce whether the document was altered or if nothing has changed since the signature was added.
How Express Permits Can Help
Florida is not alone in its move toward a paperless process. Most building departments are already accepting online submittals and some states will soon require digital proposals, so the additional requirement of third-party verification is likely already a reality for you or heading your way.
Express Permits has been in this space for more than a decade, submitting commercial plans online at the local, county and state levels. Our reps are certified in the process and know the software well, specifically the two most common: Accela and ProjectDox.
But getting the application into the proper inbox is just part of our services. Once the initial due diligence has been performed and the plans are submitted, we will follow up with government offices in order streamline the process and expediate any needs for additional requirements. At Express Permits, we’ve worked alongside companies and corporations of all sizes to bring their projects to life.