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Is Google Tracking Android Users Even With Wi-Fi Off?

"...really give us the creeps."

LG's new smart phone, the LG G2, is on display, during a global launch event in New York, August 7, 2013. The G2 is the first globally available handset to boast Qualcomm's lightning-quick Snapdragon 800 processor for all models and providers, and also sports a 13-megapixel camera, runs Android 4.2.2, has a vivid 1080p HD display and last, uncommonly, its volume and power buttons are located on the phone's back side. (Photo credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Google rolled out its latest Android operating system last month, but now it's raising some privacy concerns about location tracking.

Google stated that Android 4.3 would allow Google and apps to scan for nearby networks "even when Wi-Fi is off" in order "to improve location accuracy and for other purposes." It's this measure, which PC World called "buried," that is setting off some privacy alarms.

"Location accuracy is one thing, but it’s these so far unspecified 'other purposes' that really give us the creeps," Highlight Press wrote.

andriod 4.3 Google recently released its Android 4.3 operating system update. Some have since been calling out a "buried" feature that could pose a privacy issue. (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Ron Amadeo with Android Police explained that this measure by Google is likely one to save users' batteries:

Google wants you to leave Wi-Fi on so that apps can get your location, but consider that the other option for location is firing up the GPS chip, which is a battery's worst enemy.

CNET in its review too confirmed this would help save battery life:

The Wi-Fi scan-only mode, while somewhat obscure, is a new feature that could help conserve your battery. The feature, when enabled, lets Google's location service and other apps scan for networks, even when Wi-Fi is off. This means you can improve your location accuracy without the continuous drain.

That said, there is a way to turn it really off. Amadeo wrote under the "advanced" menu is the option to turn off the "Scanning always available feature." This will "make 'off for Wi-Fi really be 'off,'" he said.

Although the default for new phones for this setting might have the feature in an "on" position, PC World noted that the default will remain "off" for owners of several different Android phones updating to the new operating system.

This issue was recently covered by WPIX-TV. Check out the report:

"Little by little, bit by bit this is acclamation," one expert cautioned in the report.

(H/T: Daily Mail)

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