Europe

Android and Windows-compatible

Swiss plastic watchmaker Swatch is preparing to launch a smartwatch in the next few months, promising mobile payments functionality and compatibility with both Android and Windows. Most interestingly, it told Bloomberg and others the watch won’t require charging. There are no details of how this will be achieved, so I can only theorize that its power requirements will be low enough to feed off kinetic energy from the user’s movements — Swatch has a technology for this called Autoquartz. The device will probably launch around the same time as the new Apple Watch, but given Swatch’s pricing it’s likely to be a darn sight cheaper.

Flocking to features

The new Vivaldi browser, unveiled a week ago by Opera founder Jon von Tetzchner, is off to a roaring start. Its first technical preview – the thing isn’t even in beta yet – has already had 400,000 downloads. As von Tetzchner said in a Wednesday update to supporters, this is more people than live in his native Iceland. His Vivaldi team is trying to provide a feature-rich power browser for people who don’t like the current trend for pared-back browsers that disappear into the background, a group that these days includes Opera (von Tetzchner quit the company a few years back). He also said in the message that the team will deliver new builds of the browser on a weekly basis.

Please make it stop

Having tried to insert the wording of the rejected Communications Data Bill into new U.K. anti-terror legislation, then having withdrawn the amendment before reintroducing it days later, securocrat members of the House of Lords have again withdrawn it due to a lack of government support. The “Snooper’s Charter” is therefore back off the table, though it may well return after the May general election, depending on who wins. Monday’s two-hour debate on the matter was tediously similar to last week’s, and appears to have been mainly intended as an opportunity for the peers to complain about not being shown the revised draft of the Communications Data Bill, which the government is keeping under wraps for now. (High point: Lord King blaming WhatsApp for ISIS’s advance in Syria and Iraq.)

Funds for London fintech firm

London-based online currency transfer outfit TransferWise has raised a $58 million Series C round that was led by Andreessen Horowitz. This follows a $25 million Series B round just seven months ago, which included Virgin chief Richard Branson and original backer Peter Thiel (who are also in the current round, along with Index Ventures, IA Ventures and Seedcamp.) Like CurrencyFair over in Ireland, TransferWise uses cash reserves in various countries to bypass the banks and offer conversion rates that are far cheaper than those offered by traditional banks and remittance services. According to the Financial Times, Andreessen Horowitz won a competitive bidding process to invest in TransferWise, which is now valued at “close to $1 billion”.

Too much data

This month’s Paris shootings demonstrated that mass surveillance doesn’t stop terrorist attacks, Edward Snowden has claimed in an interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS. “France passed one of the most intrusive, expansive surveillance laws in all of Europe last year and it didn’t stop the attack, and this is consistent with what we’ve seen in every country,” the NSA whistleblower said. French authorities knew about the Paris attackers but didn’t predict what they ultimately did. Snowden pointed out that U.S. authorities knew about the Boston bombers, but that didn’t actually stop the attack. “The problem with mass surveillance is that you’re burying people under too much data,” he said, echoing arguments that others have made about the “base rate fallacy”.

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