Asked about this by the website Quartz, Google admitted that it did indeed track such users, even if they had not used any apps on the phone.
Even phones that were restored to factory default settings were spied on by Google in this manner, according to the Quartz report.
It said that since the beginning of the year, Android phones had been reporting the location of mobile towers to Google even when location services were turned off on the device.
“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” a Google spokesperson said. “However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID.”
Nothing was said about collecting location data when location services was turned off.