Don't get the hue and cry
I'm not sure what the big deal is. The researcher is more likely to get a heart attack from eating at McDonalds than from Google. I turn off location by default not because of my tinfoil hat but because it drains battery like nothing else. I only enable it when I need it. And most of the time, when I enable it, it's on the GPS setting not on High Accuracy.
You can turn off Location History on your device and see all the apps that are requesting location services. I wasn't aware that denying location services from the app from settings would not prevent the app from getting location from Google Play Services. If that's the case, then it should be easily fixable by Google - by denying location from any app to which you have specifically denied access to location. If Google stops this end run, then I personally have no problem with Play Services itself using location.