White and Miller said the US Congress was getting bogged down in a debate between the opt-in approach to receiving e-mail supported by most European Union countries and the opt-out approach to receiving unsolicited commercial e-mail which could delay any legislation in the US.
Despite the differences in approach, legislators need to pass tough antispam laws, White said at a Washington DC event hosted by e-mail security company MessageLabs. Both legislative and technological approaches are needed to fight spam, he added.
White and Miller are part of a British delegation in Washington this week to discuss spam and other technology issues with members of Congress, leaders of federal agencies and others.
"An argument that says 'opt out is better' or 'opt in is better' is going to be a very interesting argument... but it wouldn't actually move us ahead very far," White said. "If we don't find a way of working together, spammers will find a way of playing us off against each other."
The vast majority of spam is in English, so the US and the UK need to take the lead on solving the problem.
Miller said he understood why backers of the US First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech would object to an opt-in approach to commercial e-mail, but antispam legislation on both sides of the Atlantic can be effective without being exactly alike.
"An amendment to the [US] Constitution will take years - we haven't got years," he added.
Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service