Christie Hoos, a Canadian mother of four, posted a photo of her daughter who has Down syndrome on her personal blog. Then, it ended up being used to promote a company that performs genome testing on unborn children.
The medical company says it downloaded the photo from a free image website and used it in several promotional materials, including a banner in Spain, as reported by BuzzFeed. The company maintains that the images were intended to be seen only by employees, despite having displayed them in public places.
Since Hoos discovered the photo, the company has removed her daughter’s image from the website and formally apologised. The picture has also been taken down from the image hosting website.
The photo was used in a display and on the website for a product called “Tranquility,” a DNA test produced by a Swiss biotechnology company, Genoma, Life Site reported last week. “Tranquility” uses maternal blood samples to check for Down syndrome and other chromosomal disorders before a baby is born.
Hoos’s ten-year-old daughter Becca is currently also undergoing chemotherapy for Leukemia. She originally shared the photo of Becca on her personal blog, “So Here’s Us.”
Last week a friend of Hoos recognised Becca in the photo and alerted her, BuzzFeed reports.
“My daughter has been made the poster child for a prenatal testing kit called Tranquility. As if she were a cautionary tale: don’t let this happen to you,” Hoos writes about the incident.
Becca’s picture was “on display for a few hours at the building where my group hosted a scientific medical event… They are not part of a campaign for the public,” the company’s CEO said in a public statement.
However, looking at Hoos’ tweet, it appears that the picture was displayed outside the building where it was visible to those outside of the Genoma event.
Genoma “downloaded the photo from an image bank website offering it [Becca’s picture] in an apparent legal way,” the statement explains.
Here’s a look at the page from the stock photo company, Free Large Images, where Genoma believed it was “legal” to download Becca’s picture.
The Free Large Images website explains that all of the Down Syndrome photos have since been taken down because of complaints.
These are some of the complaints people posted to the page. Many of them are from Becca’s father, Glen Hoos.
The Hooses were not the only family to discover their child’s image had been stolen for commercial use.
“You have my daughter’s photo listed here and you do NOT have my permission to use it. Please remove immediately, the photo contains my watermark and text about physical characteristics of Down syndrome,” wrote Ellen Stumbo in her complaint to Free Large Images.
This is the photograph of Stumbo’s daughter which she originally posted to her website, in a post explaining the physical characteristics of Down syndrome.
After discovering that her daughter’s picture was also on the image hosting site, Stumbo searched the web for other places that might have stolen her image.
“I found it in several places, including some pretty disgusting ones, like a forum discussing why babies with Down syndrome should be aborted,” Stumbo told Business Insider. “[T]hey have all sorts of negative, distasteful, and offensive discussions.”
She found the picture in multiple web advertisements, including this one for an Indian homeopathy clinic offering advice and cures for a wide range of medical conditions.
Neither Free Large Images or Genoma has responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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