John Gapper John Gapper in Davos: The risks and rewards of sharing information online

It can be hard to find an actual disagreement at Davos, given the social effects of sticking a lot of people in workshops and asking them to flesh out the future of the world convivially.

So it was encouraging (for a journalist) to come across a clear and important divide in the first session I attended this morning, on internet social networks.

The topic was privacy, a contentious one for social networks such as Facebook (represented in the session by Randi Zuckerberg, sister of its founder). Facebook’s recent changes to its privacy settings to open up more content to the public caused a backlash.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, the professional social network, told the session that “all of the concerns about privacy tend to be  old people issues.” Young people generally put mobile phone numbers on social networks because “the value of being connected and transparent is so high.”

But Don Tapscott, the author of Wikinomics, disagreed, saying that the open sharing of information by young people was already becoming a problem for them.

“There are thousands of young people who do not get their dream job because an employer did a check on Facebook. There are things you say and do at 19 that are not who you are.”

It strikes me that, while a lot of young people do not regard privacy as a big issue, as Mr Hoffman says, young people inevitably get older and this generation will potentially have an enormous public data trail following them.

The problem could be that, by the time they find they want to restrict personal information about themselves, it will be too late.