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The Madera Tribune

No digital signatures for him

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webmaster | 06/28/12

One of the things being considered by the Madera County Board of Supervisors is an ordinance that would set forth rules for digital signatures on county documents.

Digital signatures are made by computers. You may have digital signatures on your paychecks, or perhaps on legal documents that were sent to you from across the country. The county wants to use digital signatures more often to save money and move toward the so-called paperless office.

I realize that in this age of communication by computer digital signatures are necessary. But it seems to me we are giving away one more part of our humanity when our signatures no longer are required.

Most of us are proud of our signatures, even though (as in my case) many of these signatures are illegible. I see signatures — real ones, not the digital variety — all the time that are impossible to decipher. A lot of these chicken-scratch signatures belong to grand pooh-bahs who have to do a lot of signing. These are department directors, heads of companies, doctors and plumbers.

If these people started using digital signatures, people might be able to know who signed whatever it is they are looking at. But I’m not sure they want their signatures to be all that readable. When we sign things, it somehow means we are saying “this is me and I stand behind it. But if you can’t read this, you may not be able to hold me to it.”

I think that’s why plumbers’ signatures are hard to read. When a plumber comes to your house and fixes something, you expect him or her to fill out an invoice and sign it as a statement that certain work was done. But if the plumber merely scribbles along the bottom line, takes your money and says goodbye, he or she can always say, “That wasn’t me” if the drain clogs again and you have to call the plumber back.

That hasn’t happened to me yet, but it might.

As for myself, I will stay away from digital signing as long as I can. A computer will make my signature more legible, which will get me into even more trouble.


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