Together we go … to the White House?: The Cybersecurity Risks of Peloton

Jacqueline Brown
Associate Editor
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2022

Peloton has a coined the term “together we go far” as their company slogan, and over the course of this year that is exactly what this company has done. Since the company launched in 2012, Peloton has gone far and wide delivering their fitness technology to millions of people across the globe. Peloton is an international company that designs at-home gym equipment and produces virtual workout classes for their customers to live-stream or watch on-demand through their Peloton products. Peloton provides an outlet for fitness and competition while building a positive and inclusive community for their members across the United States and the world. Of the millions of members in the Peloton community, one is our leading man in office President Joe Biden.

Peloton in 2020

Peloton technology was popular prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, however the coronavirus lockdown caused a surge of demand for Peloton products. Peloton’s advanced technology allowed thousands of individuals who were stuck inside to begin or continue exercising with their cutting-edge fitness products when almost all exercise facilities were closed. At times during the lockdown, customers could wait up to 14 weeks for their Peloton product to be delivered to them. In 2020 alone, Peloton shares went up more than 220%, and the company announced they produced more bikes on a monthly basis in 2020 than it did in all of 2018.

Of the Peloton products, the most popular is the original Peloton bike. The bike is an indoor stationary bike that features a tablet, enabling riders to livestream or take on-demand classes alongside millions of other members from their home. Included in the tablet has built-in cameras and microphones that allow users to see and hear others if they so choose. These features were considered impressive technology allowing users to work out with friends during a time of social distancing. For our President-elect in 2020, these features were determined risks to national security, if brought into the White House.

Historically, security experts have found solutions to allow Presidents to bring in electronics that could pose possible security threats. For instance, President Trump requested his iPhone while serving in the White House, and President Obama his Blackberry and iPad devices. It is rumored that First Lady Michelle Obama has a modified Peloton to combat these risks, which is understandable as a high-profile national figure. Hopefully, the same modifications can be made for President Biden in his term.

Does Peloton pose a privacy threat to people working from home?

Prior to the news breaking of the possible security threats from Biden’s peloton bike, many Peloton users weren’t even aware of the built-in camera and microphone features on their own bikes. This caused a lot of conversation in the Peloton world, and many users questioned whether this technology could pose a privacy risk themselves?

The lockdown last March required millions across the US to begin working from home, opening the door to possible privacy risk now that business was taking place in a living room rather than a confined office space. Many industries require the upmost compliance with privacy regulations, and to transition into remote work, many companies and employees took precautions to avoid noncompliance with these regulations. However, it’s unlikely many of these employees saw a privacy threat from their at-home exercise bikes. It’s also unlikely that these Peloton users could have access to modified Pelotons to combat the privacy risk, like President Biden and other high-profile users.

Security experts say any device connected to the internet could be broken into, and each of the Peloton products requires an internet connection for use. Peloton maintains that the products are built on strong privacy and security protections to safeguard the member experience. Additionally, the company announced they perform regular security checks.  Included in their privacy policy, they state that their fitness equipment may contain a camera and microphone, but they are only in use by the Peloton user to take profile photos or participating in a video chat with another user.

However, if you are a Peloton owner and are concerned about the security risks, it may be smart to treat your Peloton as you would any other privacy sensitive device. For instance, practice unplugging or powering off the device as you would an Alexa, Siri, or Google Home to be sure.