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Pencil for Paper

FiftyThree, the U.S. startup that produces the designer-friendly drawing app Paper, has now brought out the accompanying Pencil stylus in Europe, 8 months after it was released in North America. Pencil connects with the user’s iPad via Bluetooth to enable features like palm rejection, finger blending and switching to the erase function without needing to change tools in the app. Variable surface pressure will be added with the upcoming release of iOS 8. In the U.K., the graphite version of Pencil is priced at £49.99 ($85.64) and the walnut version at £64.99 ($111.34).

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British democracy

The UK Data Retention and Investigation Powers (DRIP) Bill, which is being fast-tracked through the legislative process, cleared the first stage in the House of Commons by 498 votes to 31 after a sparsely-attended “debate” (pictured). As previously reported, DRIP expands the authorities’ surveillance powers so that foreign web communications service providers can be forced to hand over user information – despite the assurances of the U.K. government that it only maintains the “status quo”. Lawyers and web law experts (and Edward Snowden) strongly oppose it. DRIP, which all major parties agreed to support before the public got to see it late last week, now goes for a second reading in the evening, then the House of Lords on Wednesday.

In Brief

The German parliamentary committee investigating NSA activities in the country may use non-connected, mechanical typewriters to protect its work, committee chairman Patrick Sensburg suggested on Monday. Sensburg also said he was advising members to check their smartphones, after the uncovering of spies working for the U.S. The committee is looking into the revelations of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers. In response, committee member Martina Renner of The Left party tweeted: “Before I use a typewriter [and] burn notes after reading, I’d rather abolish the secret services.” Russian spies also reacted to Snowden by investing in typewriters — largely due to their utility in tracking leaks.

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Encrypted communications outfit Silent Circle, which has telco distribution deals for its secure voice app and $30 million funding in the bank, has introduced the ability to call out to regular phone numbers while maintaining a modicum of security. The “Out-Circle” feature lets users make calls to 79 countries that are encrypted between the device and Silent Circle’s servers, then sent out to the normal phone network. That means calls are secure in the country where the caller is, even if they’re not on the recipient’s side – useful in certain circumstances, and certainly more secure than Skype. Plans start at $12.95 for 100 minutes.

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Ads from the U.K. government, charities and multinational corporations have been running ahead of jihadi recruitment videos on sites like YouTube and Dailymotion, a BBC investigation has revealed. That may mean the likes of the National Citizen Service (NCS) and Oxfam have been unwittingly putting money into the pockets of Islamist extremists, as uploaders get a cut of the ads shown before their videos. Following the investigation, NCS, Oxfam and the BBC itself – in a similar position – have complained and/or had their ads removed from the offending videos. YouTube said it removes violent extremist videos when users flag them up.

Google (GOOG)
photo: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

The web giant’s investment arm is setting up a London office. Details are pretty sketchy when it comes to the type of investments it will make, and it certainly isn’t the biggest pot in town, but Google says European startups have “enormous potential”. Read more »

In Brief

Swedish Square competitor iZettle has added an extra €5 million ($6.8 million) to the Series C round it announced back in May, bringing the total for the round to €45 million ($61.2 million), and iZettle’s total investment thus far to €85 million ($118 million). The new cash comes from Hasso Plattner Ventures, the SAP co-founder’s investment vehicle, while existing investors include banking and payment giants American Express, MasterCard and Banco Santander. As usual, iZettle says it will use the money to sell its little card readers in more countries.

In Brief

It’s not just the U.S. that wants air passengers to prove their electronic devices aren’t bombs by turning them on – the same now goes in the U.K., according to an update from aviation authorities on Tuesday. The authorities refused to say which routes were affected, so all passengers flying into and out of the U.K. will have to charge their devices before traveling, on pain of having those phones, tablets and laptops confiscated. Meanwhile British Airways announced even more restrictive measures on Monday – passengers with dead devices wouldn’t be able to fly, whether or not they offer to abandon the devices — but later backed down.

In Brief

Airbnb has been fined €30,000 ($41,000) by the Catalonian authorities in Spain, who say the short-term rental marketplace has been illegally making money off properties that aren’t registered for tourist usage. The authorities, who are partly trying to protect traditional hotels, want Airbnb to stop listing unregistered properties and any individual rooms, which are illegal to rent to tourists. It’s a complex situation – many people in Barcelona make a lot of much-needed cash from renting out rooms and apartments to holiday-goers, but many of their neighbors aren’t so keen on seeing their residential buildings filled with late-partying tourists. There are vocal campaigners on both sides, and echoes of Airbnb’s struggles with New York regulators.

In Brief

In the wake of Europe’s top court invalidating the Data Retention Directive for having insufficient privacy safeguards, the British government is set to pass emergency laws allowing the core functions to continue there. According to a Sunday report in The Guardian, all major political parties support forcing providers to store and provide law enforcement access to details of who called or emailed whom and when, as has been the case since 2009. However, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are reportedly against expanding existing powers to also take in details like which web pages people visit. This “snooper’s charter” idea has been repeatedly suggested and shot down, but the government remains keen to see it put into practice.

In Brief

Upp

The British hydrogen fuel cell company Intelligent Energy (IE) has floated on the London Stock Exchange at a valuation of $1.1 billion. The firm raised $69 million in the Thursday IPO for 8.8 percent of its shares, along with $27 million from Singaporean wealth fund GIC, which now owns around 10 percent of the firm. IE will use the money to sell backup power units for cellular base stations in India, and to support the launch of its Upp personal energy generator (pictured), according to the Financial Times. Early reviews suggest one Upp hydrogen cartridge can charge a mobile device 5 times. IE, which has been developing its technology for 13 years, also plans to make fuel cells for vehicles.

In Brief

BMW 3D printed thumb

BMW is 3D-printing “finger cots” for some of its factory workers, the German carmaker said this week. Working alongside ergonomics researchers from the Technical University of Munich, BMW uses mobile 3D hand scanners to create tailored thumb-protectors for each worker. The printing is done with a selective laser sintering (SLS) process, using a precisely targeted laser to form a pre-modelled solid mass out of a thermoplastic polyurethane powder. The cots act as splints to counter thumb joint stress, helping workers who are fitting rubber plugs.

Google is telling British media companies that it has removed articles from its index as a result of an EU decision on “the right to be forgotten.” Critics say the company is deliberately over-reacting, but it is just doing what it can to call attention to a bad law Read more »

CitizenMe

The app tells users what services like Facebook can figure out about their personality and intentions. In the future, it wants to encourage people to feed that data to advertisers for cash rewards. This is an attempt to improve rather than reinvent the current internet model. Read more »

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