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I've seen many sites blocking cookies right away and expecting users to click the "Accept cookies" button to activate them. But then I came to stack exchange to ask this question and there's a note on the footer

"This site uses cookies to deliver our services and to show you relevant ads and job listings. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Service. Your use of Stack Overflow’s Products and Services, including the Stack Overflow Network, is subject to these policies and terms."

There's no button whatsoever to agree with the cookies or not, so that means that by default the cookies are enable here and if the user is using the site, it means they're already agreeing with the cookies policy?

Can I do the same to my website?

If not, can I block the whole page then, leaving a notice in the middle of the screen telling the user something like "This site uses cookies to...." With the following options: ( ) Agree and proceed. ( ) Don't agree. Take me out of this site.

So it basically means that if they don't agree with the cookies policy, they won't have access to the content either (Fair enough) and will be recommended to leave.

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You must get opt-in affirmative consent to process personal data, including tracking people's use of your site or providing targeted advertising.

The banner on StackExchange is likely in violation of the GDPR. Do not copy it. It does not have an explicit opt-in, only an opt out which is onerous (leave the site, then manually go in and delete any cookies they set, which may be hard to identify if they are from 3rd parties).

The sites you mention that have a gateway are a more correct implementation. Consent must be acquired before processing of data begins, and it must be explicit.

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    Stack Exchange's banner sounds more like the pre-GDPR cookie notification, not the new consent requirements. – Bobson Jul 13 '18 at 16:46

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