Kick it to the Curb: When to Ditch Your File Naming Protocol

I am going to conclude our current discussion on file naming with some shocking news. Sometimes you have to ditch your protocol. Yes, chuck it, trash it, leave it by the wayside.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why would I spend three previous posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) extolling the glorious virtues of file naming protocols only to turn around and tell you not to use one? Because safety and privacy should always trump organization and content management.

Starved Rock State ParkWhen we share photos, videos, or documents with other people, be it on a website, social media, or through email, the viewer has access to the file name. Normally this is no big deal; however, your file names may occasionally contain identifying information that you’d rather not share.

For example, let’s say you have a great picture of yourself that you want to use on your company website, but for privacy reasons you don’t want strangers to know that the picture was taken at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois. Maybe you live nearby but don’t want to advertise that fact. Maybe it’s your favorite relaxation spot and you don’t want it to be overrun by day trippers from Chicago. We can speculate all day long because there are probably a million and one legitimate reasons why an individual or business would want to share a picture—without sharing specific details.

Nevertheless, if the picture is named JaneDoe_StarvedRock_03Nov12.jpg, chances are high that any interested party will figure out that you were at Starved Rock in November. Cover blown!

The easy solution is to re-save the file under a sanitized name, e.g., JaneDoe.jpg. Then use this new, safe version on your website, social networks, or as an email attachment. Of course, you can still keep the original file, with the original name, for content management purposes.

Safety first!

(P.S. Starved Rock is truly a wonderful park, and I know from personal experience that visitors from Chicago and all other nature lovers will receive a friendly Central Illinois welcome. Also, the hot chocolate in the Lodge Cafe is quite tasty!)


Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, copywriting, marketing collateral, blogs, web copy, and instructional content.

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