It would appear as though Stack Exchange is employing a dark pattern in its cookie permission dialogs.

Specifically, there are two buttons presented in the initial dialog. The colour depends on the SE site on which the dialog is being shown, but in two saturations/shades.

The lighter of the two shades is used in the first dialog to signify the user is not okay with all cookies:

Initial cookie consent dialog

... but then the button using that same lighter shade on the next dialog accepts all cookies and dismisses the dialog with no further confirmation:

Subsequent cookie consent dialog

Trickery voids consent, which must be freely given on an informed basis.

  • 5
    It looks like “accept what’s here” is the dark color and “do something different” is the light color. They might have to drop the “Accept All” button on the second dialog altogether because changing the colors and/or positioning of it is just going to be confusing for different reasons.
    – BSMP
    Oct 21, 2021 at 15:04
  • 5
    It isn't trickery. One is expected to read what the button says before clicking it. And if you accidentally click the wrong one I believe you can undo it to your will.
    – 10 Rep
    Oct 21, 2021 at 15:36
  • 9
    The real dark pattern here remains the fact that this dialog shows up ad nauseam, slowly wearing down your will to invest time into customizing settings. Time and time again devs have claimed to fix it, and yet still it persists.
    – Shog9
    Oct 22, 2021 at 2:52
  • @Shog9 Are you still getting it on lap/desktop? It shows up every couple of weeks or so on mobile but I haven't been seeing it on my laptops (and mobile browsers have severely limited options for settings).
    – BSMP
    Oct 22, 2021 at 5:25
  • 1
    @10Rep Out of curiosity, how do you undo it (other than deleting all cookies, I guess)? The setting is not available in any obvious places such as in your profile settings. Oct 22, 2021 at 9:07
  • 1
    Yes, I still encounter it fairly often on all devices, @BSMP. I've stopped investing effort in trying to figure out why.
    – Shog9
    Oct 22, 2021 at 17:49
  • @EmilJeřábek there is a "Cookie Settings" link in the footer. Oct 25, 2021 at 17:49
  • Feel free to block the popup entirely. Oct 25, 2021 at 18:25
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? We've added a "Necessary cookies only" option to the cookie consent popup
    – Makyen
    Mar 18, 2023 at 19:18
  • Moving to leave open. While the addition of a button to reject all optional cookies has been added, this post is still valid for users who choose to accept some but not all optional cookies - they can mistakenly click the button with the same shade causing all cookies to be accepted instead of just the ones which the user approved. This answer to that post indicates that this wasn't changed as part of those changes. (@Makyen) Mar 18, 2023 at 22:43
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog The OP posted and accepted a self-answer which is basically a duplicate of the announcement of the changes made with the addition of the "Necessary cookies only" button. That makes it really clear that the OP's question is, in fact, answered by that change and the announcement of that change. There are, of course, somewhat similar questions which could be asked about the now-existing popups, but those would be different questions about different popups.
    – Makyen
    Mar 18, 2023 at 22:55

3 Answers 3


The UX logic is

  • Dark = Usual/recommended
  • Light = Unusual

In the first dialogue there are two choices. Sure you're encouraged at this point to accept all cookies. That's not really the point of your question, so let's move on. Say you don't click on that and you click on Customise settings instead.

Now we move onto the second dialogue. At this point, the system knows you don't want to accept all cookies, otherwise you wouldn't have reached here at all. So what's the default you're offered at this point - well that's to accept as few cookies as possible to allow the software to work at all. Doesn't that make sense?

In the second dialogue, Accept all cookies is shown lighter, because it would be an unusual choice to make at that point. Why would you choose to accept all cookies when you just told the system you wanted to customise those settings?

  • 3
    Note that "dark patterns" most broad definition is something designed to favor the shareholder value in detriment of the user value (whenever or not the user is aware of that).
    – Braiam
    Oct 21, 2021 at 19:22
  • 1
    TBF, that rhetorical question strongly suggests the button doesn't belong on the dialog at all, as it asks a question you've already answered.
    – Shog9
    Oct 22, 2021 at 2:56
  • 1
    @Shog9 Usually there's some way out if you accidentally pressed a button you didn't mean to though. Could be some way to return to the previous dialogue instead. Oct 22, 2021 at 6:25
  • This line of thinking is exactly what the designer of these dialogs was hoping for; it's exactly the reverse of almost every other cookie consent dialog out there, which is why it's so pernicious. SE should be ashamed of themselves.
    – Alex
    Nov 17, 2021 at 13:42

At least as of today (2023-03-18), the Accept all cookies button is half the width it used to be and there is now a third Necessary cookies only button (of the same size and colour as Accept all cookies and which has no follow-on dialog) next to it, indicating Stack Exchange finally decided to come into alignment with the relevant regulation.

Better late than never! Thanks to them for finally doing the right thing.


It does seem a bit disingenuous at first glance. If the UX were coloring based on Light=Unusual and Dark=Usual, then that would imply that the designer expects a user to read and disregard the "Accept all cookies" button... only to then change their mind and "Accept all cookies."

It's perhaps a dark design pattern... but I'd personally put it in a darker gray zone. It's certainly not trickery worthy of being an illusory contract.

This is likely a decision to help stakeholders maintain a share of the product. The product, in this case is the user's lack of privacy.

It's not wicked trickery. It's just business. They, like any business, have to pay bills one way or another.

  • 2
    "...like any business, have to pay bills one way or another." This would kind of imply that without the whole set of cookies StackOverflow as a platform may not survive financially. I doubt that, but maybe cookies are that essential. Oct 26, 2021 at 11:52
  • 2
    A very good point. It's quite probable that cookies aren't necessary for the continuation of SO, even as the global leader in their field.
    – saintmeh
    Oct 31, 2021 at 7:50
  • It looks like the colors have been revisited. It's not deceptive now.
    – saintmeh
    Oct 31, 2021 at 16:53
  • 1
    And how do the colors look now? Hopefully all options are on equal footing now. Oct 31, 2021 at 16:57
  • I personally like it. I don't know much about UX/etc... but yeah. it looks good.
    – saintmeh
    Nov 1, 2021 at 6:47
  • "It looks like the colors have been revisited. It's not deceptive now." Just saw the dialogue, it's still the same. Nothing seems to have changed. Nov 7, 2021 at 10:43
  • perhaps I was just part of a pilot feature.. idk.
    – saintmeh
    Nov 12, 2021 at 3:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .