TECHNOLOGY

Certified mail for the digital age

Evidence certifies the arrival of an email at its destination server The service grants legal validity to a mail

TEJEDERAS

We exchange 300 billion emails every day — that’s 3.4 million a second — all over the world. Yet these messages are often not accepted as evidence in court.

But now, a new service called Evidence is offering free certification of digital messages and attached documents. Created by a Catalan company called SerenaMail, which manages corporate communications security, the service has already attracted clients such as brewer Damm and clothing giant Mango.

Evidence is the answer to a personal problem that arose when an individual sent in a proposal for an ad campaign to an agency, which turned the offer down. Later, however, the idea was used by the ad agency, passing it off as its own. The creator sued, but he could not prove that his PowerPoint presentation, which he sent the agency via email, had ever been received — and the company denied it had seen it.

“With Evidence, that problem would be solved, because the service certifies that the message and any attached documents have indeed been received,” says Carlos Ticó, director of SerenaMail.

Who guarantees that? “Evidence generates an eEvid, proof that accredits the content of an email and its delivery to a third party. It is based on the same certification and time seals used by the National Mint,” explains Ticó. The National Mint’s service is trusted by the tax agency with regard to tax returns that are filed online.

However, Evidence can only certify that the message has reached the recipient’s server, not that the recipient has actually read it. That would be a breach of privacy.

“It is theoretically possible, although it would be very odd, for a message to get lost in the system. But what would be undeniable is that on that particular date, those documents existed and were received by the recipient’s server,” says Ticó.The way it works, he says, is “simple and effective, because if you can send an email, then you can send an eEvid.”

The first step is to register at their website, eevid.com. Then, every time the sender wants to certify a message and any attached files, he or she must type in “.eevid.com” after the recipient’s address (for instance, user@company.es.eevid.com) The recipient gets the message within the next 15 seconds or so, and Evidence sends a confirmation to the sender, consisting of two PDF documents. The first contains a copy of the message that was sent. The second is the eEvid certificate, which confirms that the recipient’s server has accepted the email. There is also an encrypted code for the email and each of the attached files, “which is unique to each document.”

SerenaMail has already applied for a European patent on its service. Evidence allows users to send 50 eEvids a year free of charge, “performing the same role as the <CF1001>burofax</CF>,” a registered fax sent from the Spanish post office. In 2010, the postal service sent 3.2 million burofaxes, which are accepted as evidence in court. SerenaMail offers the same service free of charge, because Ticó considers that “emails should not lack this function, which grants legal validity to a message when the other party denies its existence.”

The director of SerenaMail admits that out of a target market of 1.5 billion users in the world, “in five years around 0.1 percent could become users of the service, and out of these, maybe 15 percent may be interested in Evidence+, the company’s pay service, which offers added value. These target customers are the companies that send more than an average of 1.7 burofaxes a year. The services include unlimited eVids for up to 10 users starting at 69.95 euros a year, or custody of certified messages for 10 users starting at 29.95 euros a year.</CW>

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