Home secretary Amber Rudd has been criticised by the Open Rights Group and other privacy organisations over the way in which the Home Office has conducted the consultation into the Codes of Practice for the Investigatory Powers Act, better known as the Snoopers' Charter.
They claim that the Home Office has deliberately tried to put people and groups off from commenting in a bid to ensure that only official or semi-official voices are heard.
In an open letter to Rudd from the Open Rights Group, signed by a slew of privacy campaigners and lawyers, they write: "As you know in February, the Home Office gave us six weeks to respond to your consultation on five codes of practice required by the Investigatory Powers Act.
"These documents contain information about the functioning of UK surveillance powers and how these very intrusive and often risky activities are to be used in practice. However, the five documents now being consulted on include a total of 413 pages of dense legal text.
"They are accompanied by a mere nine pages of notes, including just 15 paragraphs to describe what is at issue in the entire 413 pages of the five codes of practice. The 15 paragraphs describe only what the activities constitute, and in no way delineate what the Codes are attempting to deliver or protect."
The consultation, suggest the privacy groups, is inteded to obfuscate, bamboozle and to obscure in a bid to prevent comments, rather than to facilitate them.
Needless to say, the concerned parties have a number of problems with the confusion that the documents have thrown up, and don't see how they can embrace and use them.
"Amber Rudd wants to be trusted with even more powers to remove security at WhatsApp, yet she is running the flimsiest possible consultation process for her existing powers, designed to stop people from understanding whatever she is proposing," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.
Furthermore, Killock accused Rudd of making a number of sly changes between drafts presented to Parliament and the text as it appears in the consultation documents.
The letter continues: "The changes between the drafts shown to Parliament and the proposed codes are not in any way documented in the accompanying notes, yet fundamental differences can be found, such as changing duties from 'must' to 'may'. The Codes are often restructured and reordered from the drafts in ways that are unhelpful in detecting the changes.
"There has been no effort to reach out, for instance through meetings or workshops, to brief people about the contents of the documents.
"In short, responding to the consultation on the five codes is an enormous piece of work for anyone to undertake, and the Home Office has made it near to impossible to provide a meaningful response."
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