Old computers and mobile phones that people have thrown away to be re-used or recycled are often not thought of again by their owners, but in fact they still may have very sensitive personal data on them that can often be worth a lot more to criminals than the recyclable materials contained in the device. On Thursday, the European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx, warned that the European Commission’s current proposal to recast an old directive on e-waste – the WEEE directive, for ‘waste electrical and electronic equipment’ – was focussing only on the environmental considerations of junking old equipment, and had entirely forgotten about the threat to data left on laptops and PCs by their original owners.

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