The surfing days may be numbered for the employer who checks up on his employees or prospective employees on Facebook and other social networking sites. The EU Justice Minister has unveiled plans to enshrine a "right to be forgotten online" in European law. The European Union intends to force social networking sites to have more stringent and straightforward default privacy settings.

The idea is that individuals should have the right to withdraw their consent to data processing and that the burden of proof would switch from the individual (who currently has to prove that collecting their personal data is not necessary) to the data controller having to prove that they need to keep the data.

In practical terms, this would mean that high privacy settings on sites such as Facebook would come as standard, and would no longer be something to which the individual has to opt-in. Currently employers can have access not only to photos posted by the employees themselves, but also by others over whom they have no control, sometimes threatening the employee's job or access to future employment.

We shall soon be able to sleep easy that our employer will not be able to see our embarrassing party photos (unless of course we want them to).