European law should require digital equipment makers to build in an easy, free way to delete all personal data, according to Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor.
Privacy and data protection should be integrated in the design of electrical and electronic equipment by default, he said.
Hustinx has also called for a ban on the sale of second-hand electronic goods that have not been properly wiped.
The recommendations are contained in an opinion paper he has published on planned changes to EU waste laws aimed at forcing producers to take more responsibility for the disposal and recycling of electronic goods.
The European Commission (EC) has announced it will revise the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive to solve technical, administrative and legal problems in the law.
But Hustinx said the EC should have considered the data protection and privacy risks of the reuse and dumping of electronic goods right from the outset of its plan to revise waste laws.
Developments in electronic storage media are accelerating rapidly, particularly in relation to storage capacity and size, and therefore market forces cause the turnover of WEEE (containing large amounts of often sensitive, personal data) to accelerate similarly, "the results being not only that the WEEE is considered the fastest growing waste stream in the EU, but also, in the case of inappropriate disposal, that there is an obvious increased risk of loss and dispersion of personal data stored within this type of EEE".
It is urgent for all users and producers of EEE to be made aware of the risks to personal data, especially in the final stage of the EEE lifecycle, he said.
Hustinx said the EC should state explicitly that the Data Protection Directive applies to those operating WEEE disposal schemes or systems.