N.Y. Governor Allows Immediate Use of Remote Online Notarizations Following Statewide Lockdown

March 20, 2020

As the country continues to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered a statewide lockdown in response to the national crisis.

The restrictions take effect Sunday night at 8 p.m. and will:

  • Shut down all non-essential businesses across the state, leaving just grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential operations open
  • Ban all non-solitary outside activity, like outdoor basketball games and other team sports
  • Require all non-essential government and private sector employees work from home

Following thelockdown announcement, Cuomo issued an executive order that would allow the immediate use of remote online notarization using audio-video technology. ALTA has identified several issues with the order, including the fact that public-facing technologies such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom can be used.

ALTA has noted that these types of platforms don’t:

  • Confirm identity: There wouldn’t be adequate evidence to validate a signer’s identity, in order to protect against fraud. Multi-factor authentication measures such as Knowledge Based Authentication questions and tools to verify a driver license or other ID is valid wouldn’t be used.
  • Preserve a record of the signing: There wouldn’t be an audio-video recording of the signing event.
  • Provide a signing or notarization feature: There is no way for a signer or notary to provide an electronic signature on documents.
  • Be tamper evident: There would not be a tamper seal on documents associated with the notarization.
  • Secure non-public information: Real estate transactions require the exchange of non-public information. This data exchange must comply with safe-guards under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

On March 18, U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) on March 18 introduced the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020. S. 3533 is bipartisan legislation that permits immediate nationwide use of RON with minimum standards but require tamper-evident technology in electronic notarizations. This technology allows the consumer and notary to be in different locations using two-way audio-visual communication to securely execute electronic documents.

“The strong standards in this bill are important to prevent fraud and offer consumers a more secure alternative rather than FaceTime or Skype when buying property or refinancing a mortgage,” said Diane Tomb, ALTA’s chief executive officer.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.