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A credit bureau is a company that gathers information about loans and other debts, and whether you've paid them back as agreed.
Credit bureaus have subscribers who pay to see your credit report. A subscriber must have a permissible purpose, such as deciding whether or not to grant you a loan.
Employers, landlords, people collecting debts, and companies intending to offer you credit are also credit bureau subscribers, and they can see it under certain conditions. By law, you have a right to see your own credit report, too.
Yes. Your credit report tells who has seen it recently. If you applied for a loan, you'll probably see that the lender made an inquiry, and the date. If you applied for a job, the employer may have checked your credit. (But only you can tell. It is hidden from other employers and lenders.)
The data comes from their subscribers, mostly. For example, credit card companies provide monthly updates to the bureaus, with the latest balances, address changes, credit limit changes, etc., of their cardholders. Credit bureaus also gather public records: court judgments, liens, foreclosures, evictions, etc.
In the U.S. we have Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW) and Trans Union: three separate companies that gather your information separately, so differences in their credit reports often exist. Many local bureaus exist, but they are affiliated with one or the other of the "big three," in most cases.