Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and eight other top technology companies are accused of taking part in a data mining program known as PRISM which started as far back as 2007. However, it now appears that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) didn’t join the program until about six months after Steve Jobs passed away.

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The news about PRISM comes the same week as privacy concerns were raised after the appearance of a court order reportedly requiring Verizon Communications Inc (NYSE:VZ) to hand over the phone records of its millions of customers.

Details On The PRISM Data Mining Program

A report by Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post dropped the bombshell on Thursday. In addition to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), PalTalk, AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) and YouTube are also accused of taking part in the program.

The program’s codename is PRISM, according to The Post, and it allegedly monitors the central servers of the companies. PRISM reportedly extracts documents, photos, video, audio and connection logs which make it possible for federal authorities to not only track users’ movements but also monitor who they are in contact with.

This morning AppleInsider’s Mikey Campbell reports that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) joined PRISM in 2012 about five years after Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) allegedly joined it, potentially becoming the first corporation to join. The program involved giving server access to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit.

Apple, Others Deny Involvement

A report by Amir Efrati, Jessica E. Lessin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries in The Wall Street Journal indicates that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) denies even hearing about the program, while Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) are denying ever being involved in it.

A spokesperson for Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) told The WSJ that it only hands over customer information when the government sends a legally binding subpoena or court order demanding it. She also said that if federal authorities have some kind of “broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data,” they don’t participate in it.

Statement From Federal Authorities On PRISM

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said the program can’t be used to target certain Americans or anyone in the U.S. intentionally. He said the program involves the use of “extensive procedures specifically approved by the court to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted.”

Google’s Battle For Privacy

About a week ago, a secret lawsuit against Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) was uncovered. The suit attempts to force the search giant to give the Justice Department access to user information without a search warrant.

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) said earlier this year that it would lobby Washington to fight back against federal plans to access the digital messages and emails of its users. This new information about the PRISM program only highlights just how far the government may go in order to keep tabs on Americans—whether or not they’ve done anything wrong.