940  Use of Electronic Signatures

Approved by President
Effective Date: June 5, 2017
Responsible Division: Information Technology
Responsible Office:  Information Technology
Responsible Officer: 
Vice President for Information Technology

I.  Purpose

This policy allows for e-signature use and the acceptance of faxed, emailed, and scanned signatures at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU or University) by methods that are practical, secure, and balance risk and cost. It is not the intent of this policy to eliminate all risk, but rather to provide a process that assures parties that appropriate analysis was completed prior to implementation of e-signature or the acceptance of faxed, emailed, and scanned signatures, and that the level of user authentication used is reasonable for the type of transaction conducted. 

II.  Scope

This policy is based on T.C.A. § 47-10-101, et. seq., the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. To conduct a paperless transaction requires reliance on verifiable electronic signatures.  E-signatures may be implemented using various methodologies depending on the risks associated with the transaction. Examples of transaction risks include fraud, non-repudiation, and financial loss. The quality and security of the e-signature method should be commensurate with the risk and needed assurance of the authenticity of the signer. Authentication is a way to ensure that the user, who attempts to perform the function of an electronic signature, is, in fact, who they say they are and is authorized to “sign”. 

An e-signature may be accepted in all situations, if requirement of a signature/approval is stated or implied. This policy does not supersede situations where laws specifically require a written signature. This policy cannot limit the right or option to conduct the transaction on paper or in non-electronic form and the right to have documents provided or made available on paper at no charge. The e-signature must be protected by reasonable security measures, as applicable, to established computer functions of the University.

III.  Definitions

For the purposes of this policy:

A.  Authentication. To establish as genuine, and verify, the identity of a person providing an electronic signature.

B.  Credential. An object that is verified when presented to the verifier in an authentic transaction.

C.  Electronic Record. A contract or other record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means.

D.  Electronic Signature. An electronic signature/approval (e-signature) is defined as an electronic identifier that is created by a computer and is intended by the party using it to have the same intent, affect, and authority as the use of a manual, either written or facsimile, signature. An electronic signature can be the person’s typed name, their email address, or any other such identifying marker.

E.  Transaction. A discrete event between a user and system that supports a business or programmatic purpose.

IV.  Faxed, Emailed, Scanned Signatures

The electronic process expedites obtaining required contractual information. A faxed, scanned, or emailed signature shall be considered just as valid as an original written signature except when an actual original signature is required by state or federal law; when the faxed, scanned, or emailed signature cannot be verified; or when the other party desires original signatures.

In order to accept a faxed, scanned, or emailed signature in lieu of an original written signature, the authenticity of such faxed, scanned, or emailed signature must be verified by the receiving party. Such means of verification shall include:

A.  The receipt of a faxed signature from a facsimile number verified as belonging to, or traceable to, the party that did so sign and transmit the document.

B.  The receipt of a scanned or emailed signature from an email address verified as belonging to the party that did so sign and transmit the document. E-mail access being based on unique credentials (username/password) will be accepted as the electronic record for the email and associated attachments from vendors. Electronic signature will be the scanned document containing the authorized written signature from the vendor/contractor.

Furthermore, in order for a faxed, scanned, or emailed signature to be considered valid, both parties must agree that a faxed, scanned, or emailed signature, or a copy of the same (including an electronic copy), may be used for any and all purposes for which the original signature may have been used.

V.  Online Approvals

Online approval expedites obtaining required approvals for internal processes and can be established by contract with other parties.

Online approvals shall be accepted as valid when the online process requires authentication, such as user name and password.

As appropriate, online approval systems should implement technologies in alignment with industry best practices, including secure data transmission standards, password expiration, and complexity policies, etc.

VI.  Encryption Key Management

If an electronic signature method requires the use of encryption technology that utilizes public or private key infrastructure and/or certificates, MTSU’s Information Technology Division will be responsible for the administration of such public or private keys and certificates.

VII.  Sanctions

Any individual or party that makes inappropriate or illegal use of electronic signatures, transactions, and/or records is subject to sanctions up to and including dismissal, suspension, and criminal prosecution as specified in published MTSU policies, state, and federal laws.

Forms:  none.

Revisions: none.

Last Reviewed: May 2018.

References: Tennessee Uniform Electronic Transactions Act; T.C.A. § 10-7-101, et.seq.