noyary notarizing

If there’s any good to come out of the pandemic, it’s that the issue of whether Colorado should allow remote notaries has been put to rest.

A bill unanimously approved by the House on Monday would finally allow Colorado notaries to permanently offer remote notary services, where the person who needs a notary could participate in an audio-video recording — or other technologies as they develop — to provide signatures on legal documents, and a remote notary would sign off on those signatures.

The bill’s major provision on data privacy means that only the signing itself would be recorded, not the documents being signed, which are likely to include valuable personal or business information. That’s a departure from how remote notarization is done in other states.

Remote notarization was authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic, under an executive order signed March 28 by Gov. Jared Polis. He has since extended that order through June 27.

Once that executive order expires, Senate Bill 96 will make sure Colorado notaries can continue to offer the service.

Senate Bill 96 is the compromise several years in the making over remote notaries and protection of private personal data. Previous measures have stalled in the past over how much information could be disclosed in a remote notarization.

Remote notaries are allowed in many other states, and a person could use a remote notary from another state for a transaction in Colorado. Testimony in committee hearings over the years, however, has shown that those who use notaries, such as real estate agents, would prefer to use Colorado notaries for those transactions. Remote notarization would be a plus for those who cannot physically go to a notary, such as those with disabilities; or people in rural communities.

Data privacy has been a major concern for Rep. Terri Carver, a Colorado Springs Republican who has worked on previous versions. On Monday she said that the bill is based on the experience of other states, where information in a remote notary transaction has been sold to third parties.

Think about what information you provide to buy a home, for example: bank and credit card information, including balances; payment histories, account numbers, Social Security data, and more. 

Senate Bill 96 had cleared the Senate before the General Assembly recessed on March 14. After the legislature came back on May 27, the House made changes to the bill, adding guardrails on the rules adopted by the Secretary of State, which has oversight over notaries.

“We wanted to make sure businesses could comply with other laws that deal with remote notary and data privacy,” Carver said of the amendments. But more importantly, the bill gives notaries in Colorado “the option to do remote notarization — no one is required to do that — and to put basic privacy protections into law. We limit what can be recorded in a remote notarization,” she said.

The House Business Affairs and Labor Committee also added a legislative declaration on data privacy, at the request of the Secretary of State and the Colorado Bar Association. “We wanted to emphasize in this bill how important we regard the data privacy piece,” Carver said. In addition to limiting the recording, the prohibitions in the bill mean personal information is not to be sold to a third party.

The measure also authorizes the Secretary of State to do further rulemaking on security, accessibility and to ensure the security of how remote notarizations occur, Carver explained.

“We have been constantly chasing the development of technology, which has developed without privacy protections,” she said. “We want to ensure that as technology evolves, that we have the laws and structure in place to ensure that privacy and security are addressed.”

The amendments are no problem for Sen. Robert Rodriguez, a Denver Democrat and one of the bill’s Senate sponsors, who told Colorado Politics he was fine with the amendments and would ask the Senate to concur.

Senate Bill 96 would then head to the governor for signing. 

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