Apple CEO Tim Cook was on Tuesday spotted in Capitol Hill where he reportedly lunched with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who has taken an interest in digital encryption and privacy.
As seen in the photo above, captured by NBC News producer and reporter Frank Thorp, Cook was seen at the Capitol with Warner and Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Details of Cook's visit have so far gone undisclosed, but CNBC reports the tech CEO had lunch with Warner at the congressional office buildings. Topics of discussion are at this point unknown, but the senator has in the past expressed interest in safeguarding digital encryption technologies like those championed by Apple.
Warner has keen insight into the tech industry having cofounded venture capital firm Columbia Capital, which invested in a number of companies including MetroPCS, Nextel, MetroPCS and XM Satellite Radio. The
In 2016, Warner, then a member of the Intelligence Committee, and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) announced plans to propose a bill that would create a special congressional commission to address complex digital privacy issues.
At the time, Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were tangled in a legal battle over the unlocking of an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple vehemently opposed requests to assist in a data extraction operation, saying the creation of a bypass to one iPhone's hardware and software security protocols inherently puts millions of other devices at risk.
The FBI ultimately gained access to the device through a third-party hack.
A draft version of the McCaul-Warner bill envisioned a bipartisan commission that would represent both sides of the encryption debate by instituting a panel of members from the tech community, law enforcement and government intelligence agencies and privacy advocates, among others. The panel would review the repercussions of denying law enforcement access to encrypted communications, then make recommendations on how best to tackle the critical issue.
Cook in a memo to employees in 2016 seemed to agree with Warner's plan, saying the government should "form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms."