Holy crap these people are morons. The 3rd amendment, really? That's not really my go-to amendment for supporting arguments about the right to privacy; and shouldn't the modern interpretation be that soldiers can't use your WiFi without consent? It's about about having to afford agents of the state with accommodations in peacetime. Collecting information about you, well that seems more up the search and seizure alley to me.
But none of that really matters at all because we're not discussing constitutional limitations of the government, we're talking about private companies potentially using information about individuals without consent; and companies are not bound by constitution, they are bound by legislation.
So we move on to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, corporate advocate, who thinks your personal information is akin to a natural resource. She thinks we should "allow our free market to explore this natural resource and learn to commercialize it, protect it, and respect it." Uh... the free market hasn't really been so great about creating sustainable cycles of use and stewardship when it comes to the natural resources it depends on. More like exploit, monetize and move on. If she read up on The Tragedy Of The Commons she might observe that most companies participate in a land grab to box out competitors and aren't so big on communal use of public property for public good. Not that they should be; they're entities designed to funnel money into the hands of their shareholders. They're not some kind of representative agency created to protect the interests of its citizens.
"Why should government be the decision maker?"
*snap* *snap* Marsha! Over here! Pay ATTENTION. We created the government as an agent to represent its people and protect their natural rights from being violated. In nature man's right to life, liberty, and property are in danger from other men. And since "we" cleverly decided that corporations are people too, the government needs to protect us from them too.
So, jumping back to your terrible analogy of user information as a natural resource; this isn't some undersea oilfield in US territorial waters where bureaucrats can exchange drilling rights for coke and Bj's. This is more like the natural gas fields underneath people's homes in New York state, it technically belongs to someone else even if they're not using it right now.
Companies need to get permission by individually offering property owners enticements of cash and lies. What representative Blackburn is suggesting would make slant drilling the standard, where companies try to siphon off as much product as they can without the actual owners physically cutting them off. It's not stealing if there's just no laws that mention it.
I understand that there's a large grey area in the arena of intellectual property like this and data about me may not technically belong to me. For instance, street planners may survail traffic patterns and the fact that I use a certain street twice a day could be included in that summary. That sounds pretty reasonable in an aggregate analysis, but it starts to sound a little creepy if the study records my individual license plate number or has enough stations in town to record my individual movements with a certain accuracy. But such is the case with publicly observable facts and information, we'll need to work through as a society to decide what types of surveillance clash with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Some methods will probably end up being technically legal but socially unacceptable, while we might decide to flat out ban others.
Separate from public facts is private data accessible only to specific entities, only through a special or business relationship. This could be information your utility generates about you as a result of the service they provide. (location, call history, data usage, browser history, power consumption, payment habits) It's private information that many of us would think twice before actively divulging in a corporate survey, but in many cases is being compiled without the user's knowledge or express permission. This intimate data becomes available to the company as a side-effect of the user's service.
I imagine a tenant-landlord situation where, as a result of living in the apartment, the occupant can unknowingly disclose information about himself to the renter. Some of the incidental data may seem innocuous like what time someone goes to work in the morning, while other potential information would be very sensitive and gross invasions of privacy to have collected and stored.
As much as I distrust industry in general to use private data responsibly, I'm equally wary of the idiots discussing the issues above. They're the ones that are supposed to have a firm enough grasp on the concept to write the rules that protect those of us not savvy enough to protect themselves.