Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission are nearing a deal over Facebook's deceptive privacy practices; according to those briefed on the settlement, this could lead to a 20-year privacy audit.

A variety of conditions have been laid out by the FTC, including prohibiting the social networking site from sharing private comments made on the site with third parties unless permission is gained.

The deal comes after Facebook experienced a huge number of complaints when it "simplified" its privacy settings back in December 2009, when information that was once private to the user became public by default.

There is a huge amount at stake for Facebook as it initial public offering (IPO) is just round the corner and it would dearly like to put these privacy complaints to rest before April 2012 deadline; the company has even taken steps to grow its legal team in order to tackle the myriad of complaints.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this FTC ruling will have on the end user; however it could be a mute point, as for many, as long as the user experience is good and Facebook is doing its job - allowing them to connect with others - then what happens to personal information is often an after-thought. Facebook is a service after all and needs to make money.

Depending on the outcome, the ruling could have wider ramifications outside Facebook as many companies turn a profit through observing and recording user behaviour and data. The FTC should make a final decision on Facebook's plan soon.

Happy with the way Facebook is running its business? Any privacy concerns? Let us know in the comments.