Facial recognition technology has been around for years. But only recently has it been incorporated into TV sets by smart TV manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Panasonic.

The idea is to provide viewers with menus of their favorite shows, apps or social networks once the set is turned on and recognize who’s watching.

Now marketers would like to see the technology applied to ratings so they can get a more precise tally of who is actually watching the set when their ads appear.

Nielsen, which has explored facial recognition technology on and off for more than a decade, is again actively exploring how to apply the technique to its TV ratings panel. “It’s an intriguing opportunity for the whole industry,” said Brian Fuhrer, senior vice president, national and cross-platform television audience measurement.

Given that many devices today have facial recognition capability, from phones to TVs to gaming consoles, “it’s so logical” for the ratings company to adapt the technology as well.

Fuhrer stressed that there’s nothing imminent; the effort currently is “a lab discussion.” The company still has to determine conclusively that the existing ratings panel would not be negatively impacted. That said, if the industry agrees that the technology should be used for TV ratings, the company could implement the technology “fairly quickly,” he said.

Privacy issues remain, acknowledged Fuhrer. But given the ubiquity of facial recognition-equipped devices, he adds: “There’s a tremendous amount of acceptance” compared to just a few years ago. And there’s also a “layer of anonymity” that can be applied to any facial analysis system deployed by Nielsen, Fuhrer said...