Google Buys ITA for $700 Million Google has reached an agreement with ITA Software, a maker of air travel flight information software. ITA's technology will enable Google to improve how people search for flight information online. More specifically, however, if approved, the deal will enable Google to provide its visitors with information on flights and fares, rather than directing them to third party sites. As such, the deal can be seen as another Google attempt to not only dominate search, but also the industries we search for. To learn more, check out Brad Stone's article on the New York Times technology blog. Google News's Makeover Google News got its first real makeover in eight years this week. The service, which was previously categorized into Top Stories, World Science/Technology, Health & Sports, now caters towards "News for you," which encourages users to edit, add, personalize and socialize their news options. As of Wednesday, users now have the option to choose the news channels they want to view first, add additional sites and delete others. Most importantly, Google's new news service encourages users to share articles via email, Google Buzz, Twitter and Facebook. Google Me Rumors There is an interesting rumor floating around the tech blogosphere this week that suggests that Google maybe cooking up a Facebook-like social media service. The rumor started with a deleted tweet from Digg CEO Kevin Rose,"Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon "Google Me", very credible source," which has lead to some serious speculation from industry chatter boxes, who all point out that Google has tried its hand at social media several times- with Orkut, Buzz and Google Profiles- with little success. Their main problem is obviously Facebook and Twitter's overwhelming dominance in the social media realm. In order for Google to succeed, they will have to come up with a master social network that enables users to integrate their social experience across the web, rather than confining them to individual channels, like Facebook or Twitter. As Ryan Singel, a staff writer at Wired.com, speculates, “The only way Google could put a dent into Facebook is to go after it the same way it’s gone after Microsoft — open and free with no centralized data collection and a decision that it doesn’t have to own your data. Sure, Google will closely tie in a bunch of its own products, but it can’t go the Buzz way and require you to have a Google ID or Gmail address." Google did start off the New Year with social media as one of their main goals. Do you think its possible to 'put a dent' into Facebook? What are your thoughts on how Google could best attack the likes of Twitter and Facebook? ReputationDefender Secures Venture Capital Based out of Redwood City, ReputationDefender sets out to help individuals and small businesses take control of their online identities. This week the company secured $15 million in venture capital, with which the company plans to expand its management team and develop new products. The security savvy start-up is a subscription based business, charging its customers $9.95 a month to manage their online identities and protect their privacy. Such security measures include removing customers from marketer databases and deleting unfavorable online content. Foursquare Raises $20 Million in Venture Capital One of the most talked about location-based social media platforms, Foursquare, raised $20 million in venture capital this week from Andreessen Horowitz, which valued the company at $95 million. To read more about the growing significance of location-based social media platforms, check out Kate Shaw's article and corresponding white paper on The Search Agent's blog. Facebook Tightens Security on App Developers After months of pressure to improve their privacy setting and grant more control to users, Facebook launched a new service that forces third-party app developers to request and receive users' permission to access their data. According to Bret Taylor, CTO at Facebook, "With this new authorization process, when you log into an application with your Facebook account, the application will only be able to access the public parts of your profile by default. To access the private sections of your profile, the application has to explicitly ask for your permission." Whether this will be enough to claim the nerves of the ACLU, Consumer Watchdog, Consumer Action, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and more remains to be seen.