I recently had a message from a TL3 user who told me he never clicked on the private categories because he thought the padlock meant he didn’t have access there. I was also confused the first time I saw that.
I really liked this icon, as there is just no way to misunderstand it:
Nothing is stopping you using CSS to change it on your own personal instance.
There are far too many interpretations of ‘man in jacket with raised collar, hat and glasses’, are they a spy? a private investigator? a rogue agent? what’s their intent? The name FontAwesome uses is in itself cryptic, how do secrets apply to something that ranges from sensitive, private or just non-public.
In comparison there’s only one for a lock. There may be better, but I don’t think that’s it. Objects are always good, they serve a particular purpose, people on the other hand are much more vague and open to interpretation.
From my perspective that’s good news, there are already significant numbers of deployments and huge numbers of users who have become acquainted with the current convention. As I said above there may be better options, but it’s almost too late in the day to bother with an incremental gain which has any potential to cause more fallout than benefit.
There are people who never seen nor used floppy disks yet click that icon every day to save their data. Most computers don’t include optical drives as standard now, let alone 3.5", but it’s still very much the norm. I use certain tablet apps which bear the trusty floppy disk icon, despite the two technologies never having intersected.
If the perfect icon which requires zero explanation appears that’s a different matter entirely, but let’s worry about perfect tomorrow, for now good enough is good enough.