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Notary Bulletin

FAQ: Remote online notarization journals and recordings

RON notarization recording image

For traditional notarizations, Notaries usually keep records of their acts in a pen-and-paper journal, although some states may allow Notaries to use electronic journals. Remote online notarization (RON) laws may require Notaries to keep both an electronic journal and an audiovisual recording of each notarization. Here’s what remote online Notaries need to know about these provisions.

Am I required to keep an electronic journal and make an audiovisual recording of my remote online notarizations?

Yes, if your state’s laws require it. Many states that authorize RON require Notaries to keep a separate electronic journal record for these notarizations.

Some states have different requirements for RON electronic journals and paper Notary journals. In Texas, Notaries may keep their traditional Notary journal records in a physical book (1 TAC 87.51[a]). However, Notaries must keep journal entries for online notarial acts in a securely stored electronic record (GC 406.108[a]). Florida doesn’t require a journal for traditional notarizations, but Florida online Notaries who perform RONs must keep a secure electronic journal record of all remote online notarizations they perform (FS 117.254[1]).

In additional to other required journal information, most states with permanent RON laws also require Notaries to create and store an audiovisual recording of each remote online notarization. These audiovisual recordings provide additional evidence that a RON was lawfully performed and must also be securely stored electronically.

How do I secure RON journal entries and recordings?

“The vast majority of states require that the journal and audiovisual recording must be in a permanent, tamper–evident electronic format,” said Pat Kinsel, CEO of RON vendor Notarize. “Additionally, in most states Notaries are required to maintain a backup of the electronic journal and the audiovisual recording. Most states require that the journal must be kept under the Notary’s sole control, which means it must be password protected, preferably with two-factor authentication, and encrypted. The journal must also be immutable — i.e. the Notary can’t edit the journal once an entry is made in it.”

How do I set up and store my electronic journal and audiovisual recordings?

Many states — for example, Florida, Ohio and Indiana — require Notaries to sign up with a RON technology vendor who will provide the Notary with the required software. If you are required to select a RON vendor, many have a built-in electronic journal and provide secure storage of journals and recordings as part of their services. “Notaries are generally given the authority to permit a third party to create and store these records on their behalf to ensure they can meet the aforementioned reference standards,” Kinsel said.

When selecting a RON vendor, Notaries should ask the following questions about electronic journals:

1. Does the vendor provide electronic journal and audiovisual recording services and storage for these records? If the answer is no, and your state requires you to keep an electronic journal, you will still need to find and locate a separate solution for making and storing these journal records. If the vendor you select does provide an electronic journal and storage of journals and audiovisual recordings, you should also ask if the vendor charges an additional fee for this service.

2. How can I access my journal records and recordings, and will I be able to provide copies of these records if a state official or court requests them? It’s important to know how your journal records can be accessed if needed. RON vendor NotaryCam provides Notaries that use their platform with a user ID and password to access journal records, according to NotaryCam CEO Rick Triola. If a third party officially requested access to journal entries stored by NotaryCam, they can contact the Notary directly or make the request through NotaryCam, Triola said.

3. Does the solution meet my state’s requirements for RON journal entries and audiovisual recordings, and will the records be protected from unauthorized access? Many states’ laws require the Notary to protect journal records and recordings. In Arizona, Notaries must protect the electronic journal and recording against unauthorized access by password or cryptographic process. It is very important that any RON vendor you select meet state requirements for privacy, security and storage.

4. How long will you store my journal entries and recordings, and will I be able to access them after I stop being a Notary? The vendor should store your journal entries for the specified time required under your state’s laws. Some store records for longer periods of time. Most require records to be stored for ten years.

“We decided to store our records indefinitely until someone official specifically tells us otherwise,” said Triola. Triola says he believes it is premature currently in the RON industry for vendors to start deleting journal records from storage, even if some states only require storage for a set amount of time.

How do I keep track of my records if I sign up with multiple RON vendors?

If a remote online Notary has signed up with multiple RON vendors, the Notary’s electronic journal entries and recordings will be stored in different places. In this situation, the Notary should download the records from each vendor and keep their own secure backup of all their records in a centralized place, said Katherine Cabrera, Director of Business Development for RON vendor OneNotary.US.

“Any Notary using our system can, for example, download their journal records and save them in a password-protected external storage drive,” said Cabrera, who is also a commissioned RON Notary in Texas.

What should I keep in mind if I plan to use my own RON journal and recording solution instead of a vendor’s platform?

If your state allows you to set up your own RON system, you must make sure that any method you use to make and store your journal entries and audiovisual recordings of RON sessions is compliant with your statutes and administrative rules, if any. Some examples might be purchasing a password-protected hard drive as Cabrera described above or using an online storage service to archive your journal records and recordings in a protected format. Again, be sure that any method you select meets your state’s requirements.

Do I need to keep a journal if I’m commissioned in a state with a temporary remote notarization authorization?

Many states are temporarily authorizing remote notarizations in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some authorized Notaries to start performing RONs earlier than originally set by statute, such as Arizona and Washington. Some of these states permit alternative remote notarization methods and have special recordkeeping rules. Hawaii’s emergency rules, for example, require Notaries to create an audiovisual recording of the notarization and store it on a flash drive, DVD or external hard drive. Check the NNA’s RON Knowledge Center page or the Notary Bulletin article on temporary state remote notarization rules for information about permanent or temporary remote notarization rules in your state.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association. 




Add your comment

Rebecca Thomas

28 Sep 2020

Do you know if my state allows Ron. State of Tennessee?

National Notary Association

30 Sep 2020

Hello. Yes, Tennessee permits qualified Notaries to perform RON.

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