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I am a native English speaker and currently work at an English speaking company and interact with English speaking clients. Expressions like this come up extremely often:

Looking at such-and-such, the information is not entirely clear.

As far as I understand it, this sentence is ungrammatical because "Looking at such-and-such" is a participial phrase which is a type of adjectival phrase and therefore requires a noun to modify. The noun that that expression modifies (the person doing the looking) is not stated. Consequently, the above contains a "misplaced modifier" and is not grammatical.

Am I correct or is this a different kind of phrase that I am unfamiliar with?

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  • If it comes up often you can probably assume it is grammatical, but of a grammar you're not familiar with. Yet. learningenglishgrammar.wordpress.com/… – Andrew Feb 17 '17 at 20:24
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    No, it's not ungrammatical. "Looking at such-and-such" is not a phrase; it's a non-finite gerund-participial clause functioning as a supplementary adjunct. It would usually be called a "dangling modifier" since there's no sure-fire way of identifying the omitted subject. But by applying a good dollop of common sense, one soon realises that it is probably the speaker. – BillJ Feb 17 '17 at 20:34
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    I would say yes, it is ungrammatical - that's a dangling participle. It's dangling because it doesn't actually refer to anything in the sentence: the information is not doing any looking! However, it's a pretty common error, and probably on its way to being accepted grammar. – stangdon Feb 17 '17 at 20:34
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If

Looking at such-and-such, the information is not entirely clear.

is the entire statement, then the speaker is requiring the listener to provide 1) a subject. 2) a verb and, maybe, 3)a preposition, as understood components of the statement.
A listener might guess (or "understand"):

I think, after looking at such and such, the information is not entirely clear.

Or, the listener might not understand a preposition:

I think, looking at such and such, the information is not entirely clear.

This is spoken English. What is said isn't fixed, as in writing, and the listener may be able to question the meaning.
The statement in question (in a vacuum) would not be grammatically correct in formal writing, unless the writer were recording something said.
Requiring a reader to understand important elements of a statement (elements that are not in context) is not correct. Ellipsis (omission, with the expectation of understanding) has limits if the writer wants to be understood.
However, if the statement in question were part of a larger context:

I think that (such) is ambiguous and (such) incomplete; looking at such and such, the information is not entirely clear.

and the context provides sufficient information, then ellipsis may be justified,

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