As a notary public, an integral feature of my role is to authenticate the signature of the signatory to a document. The documents in question are usually important (hence the need for notarial authentication) and I am usually required to confirm in my notarial certificate that the signing took place in my presence. The signature is therefore in wet ink and this is a practice that has been ongoing for notaries for several centuries.
I can certainly appreciate the need for speed in the fast moving world we live in today where many transactions and processes are carried out online and often the deadlines to turn these matters around is tight. Further, cost is also reduced by avoiding having to post or courier documents.
However, in my view we are not at a stage (and quite possibly we may never be at a stage) where I will be notarising electronic signatures. This is because the role of a notary is about more than my physically witnessing the signature of the signatory to the document. When meeting a client to notarise a document, in addition to witnessing his or her signature I am obliged to also check that the client understands the document that he or she is signing and that they are not under any duress. It is difficult to see how such essential notarial checks can be carried out without seeing and speaking with the signatory. Until a method is devised to overcome these concerns in the absence of meeting a client, I would expect to continue with the age old practice of witnessing a wet signature being applied to a document.
A digital signature is a mechanism that is used to verify that a particular digital document or a message is authentic. It provides the receiver with a guarantee that the message was actually generated by the sender and it was not modified by a third party during the sending.