CES panel highlights social media privacy and the dangers of ignoring the issue

"We live in public."

This was a statement made by a 22-year-old individual participating in a panel discussion about Generation Y and online privacy at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) currently taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Slamming your head in a car door hurts, so we don't do it. Exposing dangerous amounts of our private information also hurts, but because we don't feel the pain instantaneously, we tend to ignore it all together. Our risk attention span is about 30 seconds, or about as long as it takes to read a 140-character tweet.

The CES panel was composed of six young adults between the ages of 18 and 28. Each individual made some very important points about social media exposure and their use of the Web.

"I don't believe that if I were to turn [my social networks] off that people wouldn't be able to get my info. It's already out there," said Tess, one of the Gen Y-ers.

Yes! That is exactly right. Squeezing your eyes shut as a child didn't make the monsters go away because they were never there in the first place. Closing your eyes as an adult doesn't undo countless sharing mistakes made over a matter of years on the Web, because those are very much in the real world.

Another participant said that she uses Facebook's security setting that allows her to approve any photo, status update or check-in that she is tagged in, because she correctly surmised that such information could send employers and colleagues the wrong message about her. This is a critical part of online reputation management that far too few people utilize.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, as a CNET recap of the panel points out, the entire group agreed that Facebook's privacy controls are a pain to locate and manage. The very unfortunate byproduct of this fact is that millions of people just shrug their shoulders and assume that they can ignore the issue because no one would want to target them for identity theft or do anything that might hurt their reputation.

Wrong! And that's a mistake that can cost you dearly.

John Sileo is an online privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.