More on the SoS corporations system.

My first foray into Georgia Politics was in 1996. The General Assembly was looking to move into the internet age and permit some government and commercial business to be conducted online. Some classmates at Georgia Tech and I took a look at some of the options the Senate Science and Technology Committee was investigating. One option was the Georgia Digital Signature Act. This bill would have established a state run certificate authority (CA), and validated the use of cryptographically strong Digital Signatures (the “s” in https://) for use in signing documents online.

The Georgia Digital Signature Act had some issues. At the time my friends and I testified to the Senate Science and Technology Committee offering suggestions on how the bill could be made better.

That following session, SB103, The Georgia Electronic Signature Act, was introduced by Senators Tysinger (41st), Egan (40th) and Oliver (42nd).

Interestingly, the 1997 bill required Electronic Signatures. While not the same as Digital Signatures, the 1997 bill defined Electronic Signatures as being “capable of verification” and “is under the sole control of the person using it”.

Neither of these things fall into the form of signature used in the corporate filing system. I’ve been the registered agent of a corporation since 2001, and the system has been in place at least that long.

I did some research on the software used. It’s made by FileOne and is used in “Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and the US Virgin Islands”. FileOne was founded in 1997, so the system could not predate the Georgia Electronic Signature Act.

What I find very interesting was that there was a law on the books in 1997 that specified a standard for an electronic signature. The Secretary of State at the time, Cathy Cox, purchased a system that didn’t meet the legal standard set by the General Assembly.

I think it might make for an interesting Open Records Request to see the RFP & requirements spec for the system, along with copies of the service contracts and system upgrades from the vendor. The unknown question is who operates the system, the vendor, the SoS’s office or GTA? shows a $194k payment to FileOne in 2009.

Luckily we have a new intern to do the digging for us.


  1. NonPartisanGA says:

    As Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story:

    The Electronic Signature Act put the Information Technology Policy Council in charge of piloting potential digital signature applications within the state. The head of the GeorgiaNet Authority was a member of the Council, and GeorgiaNet was the technical arm that would, in theory, produce such applications, although I don’t think any were ever actually created.

    Interestingly enough, GeorgiaNet did (through a vendor) design and implement the first online corporate registration system for the Secretary of State. It went into operation in 1996 and, like SOSKB, required no password/identity check for changing officers, etc. The GeorgiaNet system was in operation for 10 years — SOSKB/FileOne didn’t go live until January 2007.

    Why would the State authority charged with piloting digital signatures not build that capability into the system? First, the act wasn’t yet in place. The most likely reason, however, is that there has never been a requirement to verify identity on a corporate record change.

    • Mozart says:

      Well then obviously now we can direct total blame to Brian Kemp for this because for the time that he actually served in the legislature, he should have been digging-in and researching very important matters to this state and following it all up to make sure everything was hunkey-dorey.

      Now I’m .just waiting now for the next brilliant exclamation of PR rhetoric from the MacGinnitie campaign and my week will be complete.

      • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

        I think he was too busy running for Ag. Commissioner.

        But in all seriousness, I agree with you that it’s a total reach to blame him for this.

  2. hannah says:

    What is, perhaps, of additional interest is that FileOne, formerly Office Automation Solutions is a wholly owned subsidiary of ES&S, the people who “manage” elections for 67 million people with proprietary software rather than open source.
    Secretaries of State seem to be an interesting niche market. In the 2004 election it seemed significant that the Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, had acquired proprietary software from Gannon Technologies, the company founded by the fellow, William E. Franke, who organized the Swiftboat action against Kerry.
    One could say it was a multi-faceted operation.

    • ByteMe says:

      hannah, just don’t go there. It makes you look really silly. Good generals don’t re-fight the last battle; they learn from it, but they focus on fighting the current one and the one after that.

  3. Game Fan says:

    Just ignore ByteMe. That’s some good information which I’m sure will resonate with someone. In fact, as an advocate of “separation” in many cases I think I’d like to add another one to my already extensive list. How ’bout they “separate” the politicians from any financial interest in the companies which run the elections? If you can’t see any type of problem here, maybe you’re some type of functional moron. 🙂

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