Within days of reports about the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance efforts, it was revealed that French intelligence services operated a similar system with minimal oversight, The New York Times reports.

Last week, with little public debate, the French legislature approved a law that critics fear would significantly expand electronic surveillance of French residents and businesses. The provision was quietly passed as part of a routine military spending bill, and it defines the conditions under which intelligence agencies may gain access to or record telephone conversations, emails, Internet activity, personal location data and additional electronic communications, the article reports.

The Times article says that “The law provides for no judicial oversight and allows electronic surveillance for a broad range of purposes, including ‘national security,’ the protection of France’s ‘scientific and economic potential’ and prevention of ‘terrorism’ or ‘criminality.’”

Internet and corporate groups, human rights organizations and a small number of lawmakers have opposed the law as a threat to business or an encroachment on individual rights.

The government argues that the law does little to expand intelligence powers, and those powers have been in place for years – the law, they say, creates rules where there had been none, especially with regard to real-time location tracking.

Analysts say that the government has either staked out rights to a vast new range of surveillance practices or it has acknowledged that it has already been collecting data under far less regulated circumstances than people realized, the Times reports.