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FOX43 Finds Out: are tech companies tracking you even after you opt out?

YORK COUNTY, Pa -- If you go through the settings on a smartphone, you'll eventually find the location services.

That feature generally allows certain apps to be more accurate - like Snapchat or Facebook.

Alan Feldman, an internet technology expert with Virtual October in York says some people like to disable the function for privacy reasons.

"You used to just say, oh well I turned off my location services, well are they still tracking you? I don`t know."

Feldman raises the question because of a recent investigation by Quartz about Google and Android phones.

Quartz reporter Keith Collins writes "The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals' locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy."

Feldman says Google was tracking a specific type of location.

It wasn`t your actual GPS location - or a pin point location - it was the location of the cell tower that`s closest to you.That's called Cell ID.

Feldman said, "They were going to use it for a messaging service to deliver messages faster. So if they knew the location of your cell tower, they could deliver a message faster."

The Virtual October CEO says as far as he knows, Google is no longer doing this.

He thinks it's scary though, because according to the report, no one knew the company had been collecting that data since the beginning of the year.

as doing anything bad with it, but the concern is - if the phone was hacked in some way - that could then have access to that data and breach that location.">

What also concerns Feldman, is that there is no way right now for a person to opt out.

"If you wanted you location services to be off, you just turn them off. But that`s the limit to what you and I have as a consumer, the ability to do."

The quartz article states, in some cases not only did people shut off location services, they removed the phone's sim card and google was still able to track the location of the nearest cell tower.

"They have a privacy policy and they kind of tell us that they use technology to track location and that kind of stuff, but there should be a way to opt out."

Feldman says it's unclear if any other tech or phone companies are using this feature - because again - it's hard for the average consumer to even know it's happening.

"It just makes you wonder, what else are they doing that they`re not telling us about?'

FOX43 Finds Out did reach out to Google.

A spokesperson told us "We take the privacy and security of our users incredibly seriously. In regards to this specific story, the system described was not used to track user location and it never logged or used cell tower identifiers (Cell IDs). We've updated the relevant transmissions to no longer include Cell IDs."

We also asked Google what you can do if you want to make sure you're not being tracked and a spokesperson told us, your best best is to shut off location services.

If you have a story you want me to look into, FOX43 wants to find out. Let me know, send me a message on Facebook or shoot me an email at FOX43findsout@fox43.com.