How To: Hide Your "Collection"
All this talk about preserving digital legacies got me thinking: What about the bits we don't want to leave behind? Y'know, the risqué material? Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.
This seems like a complicated subject. It's not. There's some data that's private, both in terms of content as well as the very fact of its existence, and your viewing of it. Let's say you look at porn. (You do.) This fact—not just the art porn itself—belongs to you. There's no need for it to be a discoverable part of your digital life, or, god forbid, your digital legacy. Here's how to make sure your private collections are in order, and our of sight.
Level One: Obfuscation
Who hasn't created a folder called "Business" only to fill it with an entirely differently kind of business? It's a hallowed tradition, enjoyed by nearly everyone who's used a computer in the last 20 years. And as ridiculous and inept as it sounds, it probably worked—then.
There was a time when hiding a folder deep within an operating system's file structure actually hid it. Family members and spouses never had a reason to explore C:/Windows/System32, much less the "Nrop" folder you cunningly stashed there. And unless anyone went out of their way to search for incriminating content, it just wouldn't come up.
Today, things are different. Both major OSes have deeply integrated and everpresent search features—Spotlight in OS X and Start menu search in Windows 7—which bring the depths of your file system bubbling to the surface with alarming ease and frequency. They prioritize file types over file locations, so your buried videos are just about as discoverable as if they were stored your "My Videos" folder. As far as hiding your shit, and keeping your bereaved family from discovering your bizarre-but-harmless-but-still-pretty-bizarre video collection, this offers only the slightest protection.