MasterCard and Visa are reducing their Internet security message to a simple logo.
Unveiled last week at a San Francisco gathering of technology companies supporting the associations' Secure Electronic Transactions protocol, the trademark will appear on software and Web sites that meet the SET technical specifications.
The symbolism makes tangible the progress MasterCard, Visa, and their technology associates have been making toward a system for guaranteeing credit card transactions over open computer networks through digital certification and related security techniques.
"We expect to see it start showing up on products later this year," Steve Herz, Visa International's senior vice president of Internet commerce, said of the SET mark.
It is likely to be one of a series of trust symbols that corporations hope will assure a public that harbors doubts about Internet safety.
Several prominent software companies have coalesced around a privacy framework called TRUSTe, which will communicate through symbols the extent to which a service provider pledges not to share personal information.
RSA Data Security Inc., the data encryption company that is in the inner circle of SET technology partners, has promoted its "encryption engine" logo as a symbol of security. And there is talk that the Banking Industry Technology Secretariat, a division of the Washington-based Bankers Roundtable, will sponsor a "seal of approval" for interactive banking technologies.
"It remains to be seen how all these unfold, but SET is a security protocol very specific to payment card transactions," said Mr. Herz. "Our task is replicating in virtual space the trust that exists in the physical world-as opposed to general privacy, security, or encryption."
The SET logo is the property of Visa and MasterCard, which will jointly control its licensing and oversee the certification of vendors and products. SET technology supporters-including GTE, IBM, Microsoft, Netscape, RSA, Terisa Systems, Science Applications International Corp., and Verisign-had a hand in designing the certification process, Mr. Herz said.
He said systems companies have both technical and marketing reasons for displaying the logo: "From a payment card standpoint, there is a need to communicate if a particular software package complies with the protocol. Our partners have been investing in the protocol and want to be recognized for their efforts."
Visa, MasterCard, and the SET suppliers underscored other progress at the event last week:
BankAmerica Corp., First Union Corp., Alaska Airlines, and Capital Broadcasting Corp.'s Interpath Marketing subsidiary announced plans for one of the first extensive SET trials in the United States.
Processors Sistema 4B in Spain and Nets in Singapore, Verifone Inc., Verisign Inc., and several banks demonstrated SET across three continents: Asia, Europe, and North America.