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? OpenGeorgia.gov shows a $194k payment to FileOne in 2009.
Luckily we have a new intern to do the digging for us.