France has adopted a bill allowing authorities to access and gather Internet user data without judicial approval just a few weeks following Paris’s outrage over spying efforts by US National Security Agency (NSA).
The legislation, approved Thursday by the French Senate, has been censured by activists as a measure "against the principles of democracy."
The legislative measure gives French intelligence services access to telephone and Internet usage data and would let them locate and follow the target of a terrorism investigation in real time.
Additionally, the law allows government agents to access metadata about users from website hosts and seize content stored on websites, local news outlets report.
Apart from terrorism, information can be sought on the grounds of national security, organized crime and the protection of national economic and scientific interests.
The information can be demanded without the prior approval of a judge, as previously required; however, there will be post-facto monitoring by national oversight bodies. Currently in France, authorities are required to apply for a warrant to access this information, a process that usually takes several months.
ASIC, a Paris-based association that groups web players operating in France such as Facebook and Google, said the law "weakened the sector and raised many questions in terms of protection of freedoms".
"There is no doubt that this bill will weaken the French position in the European and international debate on the protection of personal data," it added.
National Security Agency (NSA) had been conducting mass surveillance of European citizens, including in France.