James Eli Shiffer | Star Tribune
Watchdog Column | Data Editor

James Eli Shiffer joined the Star Tribune in 2005. A native of Scarsdale, N.Y., Shiffer previously worked at The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. He holds a bachelor's degree in English from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.


Growing police tech arsenal watches criminals, citizens

Law enforcement agencies have more tools to gather information than ever before. Laws safeguarding that data and guaranteeing public access to it are failing to keep up.


Inside law enforcement's high-tech toolbox

New technologies are giving law enforcement in Minnesota and across the country broad access to data on criminals and everyday citizens alike.


Public left on the street after White House visitor logs go dark

Last week, the Secret Service banished pedestrians from the south side of the White House after too many unauthorized visitors managed to leap…


Minn. burglar found addresses of victims online before committing crimes

There are 14 situations in which it is legal to view someone else’s driver’s license and motor vehicle registration data. Finding homes to ransack isn’t…


Project opens the FBI files on the notably dead

For the past 16 months, when a notable person dies, Parker Higgins sends a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each letter is the same, except for the name, and makes the same request: Hand over the FBI file for the deceased.


Growing web of laws keeps Minnesotans in the dark

The state's public records law is riddled with hundreds of exceptions. Local governments and businesses are pushing to keep even more data secret.


Lawmakers propose limiting access to day care enforcement records

Providers want to protect reputations, but families want enforcement data.


Gov. Walker embraces government sunshine, but it's cloudy in Minnesota

Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of open government and the First Amendment, was heralded by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with a March 8 proclamation…


Minnesota law allows driver's license snoopers to stay in shadows

The snooping into Minnesota driver’s license data became a scandal in 2012. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and others were using the database to check the…


USDA removes animal welfare records from website

Dogs with sores on their paws and missing fur. Sick rabbits living in a trashy building. A kennel two degrees hotter than the 85-degree legal…