The head of one of UK’s most respected computer recycling charities has urged businesses to continue to donate used computers, despite recent stories claiming that data is being stolen from them after disposal.

Earlier this week, it emerged that hard disks from PCs sent to Nigeria from the UK were being successfully trawled for information that could be used to defraud UK consumers or businesses.

In a similar vein, last week, a BT-sponsored report found that a sizeable proportion of hard disks bought in the second-hand market contained usable data, some of which could even be used to identify the company in which the disks had been used.

Tony Roberts of Computer Aid International (CAI), which sends recycled PCs all over the developing world on a not-for-profit basis, said companies should follow simple guidelines when disposing of PCs.

Primarily, he said, companies should only deal with organisations that complied with tough UK government CESG (communications electronics security group) guidelines for data security, and to ensure that disposal companies destroy drives that are not going to be reused.

According to Roberts, CAI used only industry-leading tools that could “overwrite every track, sector and cylinder of the hard disk, making recovery of the data impossible.”

Roberts remains concerned that scare stories could put people off PC recycling.

“We urge all businesses and organisations, as well as the general public to continue to donate old PCs to charities such as Computer Aid International. After all, just one PC can provide 50 children in the developing world with 120 hours of access to essential IT skills,” he said.