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Electronic storage is governed by laws and regulations with a national and international scope of application. These regulations provide a precise legal framework for the storage of all types of electronic documents so they may acquire the same legal value as any handwritten document.
Starting from the time the archives are captured, the electronic safekeeping solution tasked with storing these documents must guarantee their integrity in order to provide them with probative value before authorities.
France is recognized across Europe as a country with an extensive digital culture in zero paper throughout the document life cycle, including the standardization of electronic storage procedures of these characteristics. The drafting of national standards to define the technical processes to follow when preparing these solutions offers a framework of trust for all users.
To that end, in France, article 1316-1 of the Civil Code defines two essential features for giving this value to an electronic document: it must guarantee the authenticity of its source and the integrity of its content throughout the preservation term.
The AFNOR standard, updated in 2009, describes: « Spécifications relatives à la conception et à l’exploitation de systèmes informatiques en vue d’assurer la conservation et l’intégrité des documents stockés dans ces systèmes »
This French regulation, transposed to the international level, spells out the technical and organizational procedures an EAS must meet to capture, store, consult, delete, and replace electronic documents in conditions that guarantee long-term integrity and uphold their probative value. Given its value in electronic storage matters, the standard was presented to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) shortly after publication in France and adapted into an international standard in 2012: ISO 14641-1.
Regulation 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market came into force across Europe in 2016. The aim of the regulation, known as eIDAS, is to unify the trust service framework.
The figure of the Trust Service Provider has been defined since the regulation's enactment as the maximum authority on trust and security in all matters related to electronic commercial relations and zero paper procedures. A trust provider must be previously certified for each of the trust services it is qualified to provide.
The Regulation envisages electronic preservation as a trust service so long as it complies with the long-term preservation requirements as set down in the European regulations. In this case, the integrity guarantee must be applied with other trust services such as a qualified electronic signature and seal. To ensure long-term integrity, this integrity mark must be reaffirmed on a regular basis through the use of a time stamp. The procedure extends the technological validity of the signature/seal used to reaffirm the integrity guarantee of the stored document.
An EAS that applies preservation procedures in accordance with eIDAS not only gives documents probative value but also reverses the burden of proof.
This means that before authorities, it is not the document owner who has to demonstrate document integrity (because it uses processes with a maximum level of guarantee) but rather the opposing party who must show that a document is invalid.
In an increasingly digital Europe, citizens, companies, and the public sector need a regulatory framework that brings security and legal certainty to electronic activities. These security mechanisms are set forth in Regulation No 910/2014, known as eIDAS. This new regulation brackets electronic documents in the same category as traditional paper ones. It also stresses that to preserve them for the long term it is necessary to have a certified and trusted document safekeeping system.
In this White Paper, we present the new qualified trust services, emphasizing electronic document safekeeping services.
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