Paris - France reacted angrily on Monday to a newspaper report alleging that the US spied on millions of phone communications made by French citizens, summoning the US ambassador and demanding that the issue be taken up in EU-US free trade talks.
Le Monde daily reported that documents leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden showed the US National Security Agency (NSA) collected 70.3 million recordings of French phone data between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013.
The information was contained in an NSA graphic, which the paper uploaded onto its website.
It was not clear whether the spying had started before 10 December and/or continued after the period in study. The graphic appeared to be a 30-day snapshot of the programme, which was coded "US-985D".
The documents did not identify the targets of the surveillance but Le Monde said that explanations given in the texts indicated that "both people suspected of links with terrorist activities as well as individuals targeted simply for their links to the world of business, politics or the French administration" had been monitored.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius slammed the alleged spying as "totally unacceptable".
Speaking on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg Fabius said his ministry had summoned the US ambassador to demand an explanation.
In later remarks, he said he would bring up the issue with US Secretary of State John Kerry at a pre-scheduled meeting on Tuesday and that President Francois Hollande would also be squeezing the European Commission to obtain more guarantees on data protection in trade talks with the US.
"Because, as I have said before, we are obviously in agreement to cooperate on fighting terrorism, it's indispensable, but that doesn't justify snooping on the personal data of millions of our citizens," Fabius said.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls also labelled the revelations "shocking" and "completely unacceptable" on the part of an ally.
Le Monde said the NSA had several ways of spying on the French.
"When some telephone numbers are used in France they activate a signal which automatically triggers a recording of certain conversations."
"This surveillance also uses key words to retrieve text messages and their content. Finally, the NSA systematically stocks the records of each target's communications."
The revelations are the latest in a steady stream of disclosures about US spying programmes, based on NSA documents leaked by former CIA employee Snowden starting in May.