EUROPEAN REVIEW

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ISSUE 74 page 8

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Sites of Interest
Infocards aim to simplify chemicals information online
 THE EUROPEAN CHEMICALS AGENCY (ECHA) HAS ONE of the largest databases in its field. It has details of the classification and labelling of 120,000 substances and the hazards associated with 14,000 as well as instructions for their safe use. Until now the way that the information was displayed seemed to be aimed more at scientists and technical experts rather than workers and trade unions. Aware of these limitations, the agency has now released Infocards which are accessible from its web site. The infocard gives a summary of the key information on a chemical substance in plain English. Users can read about the chemicals they are exposed to, where they are commonly used, whether they are hazardous and the precautions that they might need to take. If further information is required there are two further levels: the
ECHAInfocard
‘brief profile’ and ‘source data’. Executive Director Geert Dancet says: ‘ECHA is moving from collecting information to making much better use of it for the general public as well as for regulators throughout the world’. Gertrude Lauber of German trade union IG BCE commented ‘Trade unions have always been demanding short and understandable information about the properties of substances. Extended safety data sheets are difficult to understand and not fit for purpose. [Infocards] fill the gap on providing meaningful and reliable information on substances’. When the European Review visited the ECHA web site it found a prominent search box on the home page which led directly to the Infocard for the chemical entered although this was not advertised.

The Infocard for Chromium Trioxide

 

 

Walls shored up but is ‘Safe Harbour 2.0’ built on sand?
WE REPORTED IN THE LAST ISSUE ABOUT THE DEMISE of the ‘Safe Harbour’ agreement which allowed American I.T. companies to transfer European users’ data across the Atlantic. Following the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in favour of Max Schrems, an Austrian Facebook customer, who objected to his details being sent to the land of the Snowden revelations, the EU and U.S. authorities engaged in frenzied negotiations to patch up a new deal. Otherwise all firms transferring data outside the EU would have been open to an enormous number of potential law suits. The offer by the U.S. government to create an ‘Ombudsman’ to investigate complaints from European users, the passing of the Judicial Redress Act to allow EU citizens to use the U.S. Privacy Act, a low-cost dispute resolution system for Europeans and the promise of a letter ruling out indiscriminate mass surveillance was enough to seal the deal. The new ‘Privacy Shield’ was concluded within the three-month deadline set by the EU’s data protection regulators after the ECJ decision. While Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said the deal was a vital step in maintaining data flows and strengthening confidence in cloud storage Yorgen Edholm, chief executive of U.S.-based cloud provider Accellion, believes that it will only be a matter of time before it is challenged in the courts. On the other side of the argument Jan Philipp Albrecht, from the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee thinks that ‘At the moment it’s very likely to happen and then this is a disaster for this Commission’ and the man at the centre of the row, Herr Schrems: ‘'I don’t think it‘s going to hold up in court … What was presented yesterday was so laughable'.

New EU law: tech firms must report hacks

A NEW AGREEMENT BETWEEN MEPs and the EU Council of Ministers should lead to a law which, for the first time, will regulate I.T. break-ins or hacks. Few weeks go by without a story hitting the front pages, both printed and web, about a breach of security at a well-known company. From tech firms themselves, like the UK’s TalkTalk to online-based businesses such as Ashley Madison, huge numbers of customers and amounts of cash have been lost as hackers accessed personal information. Over the EU as a whole the European Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) estimates that such breaches result in annual losses of between €260 billion and €340 billion. Until now there has been no onus on companies or governments to report or share information on cyber-attacks and no minimum standards of cyber-security. The Network and Information Security directive will tighten security at banks, energy and water firms and probably the likes of eBay, Amazon and Google as well. Member States will have to exchange information on attacks and share best practice and expertise. If approved by the European Parliament and national governments it will be a ‘major step in raising the level of cybersecurity in Europe’ according to Digital Affairs Commissioner Günther Oettinger.




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