- 06.07.13 11:29 AM EDT
The top secret program has reportedly been in operation since 2007, and involves Google, Apple, Facebook, YouTube, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft with DropBox described as "coming soon." The program allows officials to access the sites' central servers and to collect material including search history, email content, file transfers, and live chats.
The program, called PRISM, is a major tool for the NSA. According to the Washington Post, PRISM is the NSA's "leading source of raw material... "accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports," which the Post calls "a remarkable figure" for an agency that sees trillions of pieces of communication annually.
It's worth pointing out that the NSA was created to collect foreign intelligence. While foreign terrorists are the purported target of the program, the program's methods would inevitably involve collecting large quantities of content from American citizens.
Apple claimed that it's never heard of PRISM, and Google has similarly denied participation.
Verification for the program's existence comes from a 41-slide presentation used to train operatives in the capabilities of the program, attained by both papers.