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Facebook developers to factor in age, location

For legal and licensing reasons--think liquor and game companies--the social network's API now enables developers to restrict access to applications by these parameters.

Facebook has announced modifications to its developer application programming interface so that the creators of third-party applications can restrict their reach by demographic--more specifically, by age or location.

The update is designed to help developers who may run into legal issues if they make their applications available to all Facebook users, regardless of how old they are or what countries they live in.

This could apply, for example, to promotional applications created by liquor companies that need to restrict access to those over 21 in the United States, or to game makers that have only been licensed in certain countries. We've seen this already with the two versions of board game Scrabble on Facebook: one created on behalf of Hasbro, which licenses the game in the U.S. and Canada, and one by Mattel, which publishes it overseas.

The new demographic restrictions in the API use Facebook profile data to determine age and location, and profile data is not always totally accurate. As a result, the social network recommends that developers also ask up-front about those details.

"You can and should consider implementing additional consent or confirmation in your application, as appropriate," a post on Facebook's developer blog by engineer Nick Gianos read. "For example, if, for legal reasons, your application requires the user to affirm that they are of a certain age or are in a certain location, you should continue to solicit that explicit affirmation, and not regard the fact that the user passed through the Demographic Restrictions as equivalent."